The ethnic context of child and adolescent problem behavior: implications for child and family interventions

Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev. 2007 Jun;10(2):137-79. doi: 10.1007/s10567-007-0021-9.


This article links the empirical literature on race and ethnicity in developmental psychopathology with interventions designed to reduce adolescent problem behavior. We present a conceptual framework in which culture is endogenous to the socialization of youth and the development of specific self-regulatory strategies. The importance of cultural influence is identified at three levels: (a) intrapersonal developmental processes (e.g., ethnic identity development, development of coping modifies mechanisms and self-regulatory mechanisms), (b) family socialization processes (e.g., racial and ethnic socialization), and (c) interaction with larger societal contexts (e.g., maintenance of bicultural competence in adapting to mainstream and ethnic cultures). We discuss limitations of current assessment and intervention practices that focus on reducing adolescent problem behavior with respect to the cultural issues identified above. We propose that empirically supported adaptive and tailored interventions for adolescent problem behavior are optimal for serving multicultural children and families. To empower such interventions to better serve children and families of color, it is essential that assessments that guide the adaptation and tailoring process include culturally salient dynamics such as ethnic identity, racial socialization, and culturally informed parenting practices.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Conduct Disorder / epidemiology
  • Conduct Disorder / ethnology*
  • Conduct Disorder / therapy*
  • Culture
  • Ethnic Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Family / psychology*
  • Family Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Social Control, Informal
  • Social Environment*