Legitimizing Family Management: The Role of Adolescents' Understandings of Risk

Simone Ispa-Landa*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Few studies use the kinds of rich qualitative data that permit the analyst to probe for the numerous ways that contextual demands could explain adolescents' interpretations of the socialization processes within their families. Using inductive techniques, the author analyzed Black adolescents' (N=64) interpretations of their parents' expectations and rules. Several findings emerged. First, agreeing with parents' assessments of risk was critical to participants' acceptance of family management. Second, participants legitimized their parents' practices as helping them avoid the risks of getting in trouble with the law, acquiring a disreputable identity, and failing to ascend the class ladder. Third, boys and girls legitimized different expectations and rules because they experienced and assessed risks in gender-specific ways. The author argues that adolescents bring an understanding of risk to bear on their interpretations of family life and uses these findings to develop a grounded concept of legitimizing parents' controlling practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)516-530
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Marriage and Family
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016


  • Adolescents
  • African Americans
  • Families and individuals in societal contexts
  • Gender
  • Parent-child relationships
  • Qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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