Family, peer, and neighborhood influences on academic achievement among African-American adolescents: One-year prospective effects

  • Nancy A. Gonzales
  • Ana Mari Cauce
  • Ruth J. Friedman
  • Craig A. Mason


Using a 1-year prospective design, this study examined the influence of family status variables (family income, parental education, family structure), parenting variables (maternal support and restrictive control), peer support, and neighborhood risk on the school performance of 120 African American junior high school students. In addition to main effects of these variables, neighborhood risk was examined as a moderator of the effects of parenting and peer support. Family status variables were not predictive of adolescent school performance as indexed by self-reported grade point average. Maternal support at Time 1 was prospectively related to adolescent grades at Time 2. Neighborhood risk was related to lower grades, while peer support predicted better grades in the prospective analyses. Neighborhood risk also moderated the effects of maternal restrictive control and peer support on adolescent grades in prospective analyses. These findings highlight the importance of an ecological approach to the problem of academic underachievement within the African American community.

Key Words

academic achievement African American neighborhood family peer 


  1. Aber, J. L. (1993).The effects of poor neighborhoods on children, youth and families: Theory, research and policy implications. Background memorandum prepared for the Social Science Research Council Policy Conference on Persistent Urban Poverty, Nov. 9–10, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  2. Aber, J. L. (1994). Poverty, violence, and child development: Untangling family and community level effects. In C. A. Nelson (Ed.),Threats to optimal development: The Minnesota Symposia on Child Psychology (Vol. 27). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  3. Aber, J. L., Mitchell, G. R., Garfinkel, R., Allen, L., & Seidman, E. (1992, June).Indices of neighborhood impoverishment: Their associations with adolescent mental health and school achievement. Paper presented at the Conference on the Urban Underclass: Perspective from the Social Sciences, Ann Arbor.Google Scholar
  4. Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1992).Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  5. Armsden, G. C., & Greenberg M. T. (1987). The Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment: Individual differences and their relationship to psychological well-being in adolescence.Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 16, 427–453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baldwin, Baldwin, & Cole (1990). Stress-resistant families and stress resistant children. In J. Rolf, A. Masten, D. Cicchetti, K. Nuechterlein, & S. Weintraub (Eds.).Risk and protective factors in the development of psychopathology. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator-mediator variable, distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 1173–1182.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Baumrind, D. (1971). Current patterns of parental authority.Developmental Psychology Monograph, 4, 1–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Berndt, T. (1979). Developmental changes in conformity to peers and parents.Developmental Psychology, 15, 608–616.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Berndt, T. (1982). The features and effects of friendships in early adolescence.Child Development, 53, 1447–1460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Block, J. (1965).The Childrearing Practices Report: A set of parental socialization attitudes and values. Berkeley: Institute of Human Development, University of California.Google Scholar
  12. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of the family as a context for human development.Developmental Psychology, 22, 723–742.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Buhrmester, D., & Furman, W. (1987). The development of companionship and intimacy.Child Development, 58, 1101–1113.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cauce, A. M. (1986). Social networks and social competence: Exploring the effects of early adolescent friendships.American Journal of Community Psychology, 14, 607–628.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cauce, A. M., Felner, R. D., & Primavera, J. (1982). Social support in high-risk adolescents: Structural components and adaptive impact.American Journal of Community Psychology, 10, 417–428.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Coleman, J., and Hoffer, T. (1987).Public and private high schools: The impact of communities. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  17. Connell, J. P., & Wellborn, J. G. (1991). Competence, autonomy and relatedness: A motivational analysis of self-system processes. In M. Gunnar & A. Sroufe (Eds.),Minnesota Symposium on Child Psychology (Vol. 23, pp. 43–77). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  18. Cotterell, J. L. (1992). The relation of attachments and supports to adolescent well-being and school adjustment.Journal of Adolescent Research, 7, 28–42.Google Scholar
  19. Darling, N., & Steinberg, L. (1993). Parenting style as, context: An integrative model.Psychological Bulletin, 113, 487–496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985).Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  21. Dornbusch, S. M., Ritter, P. L., Leiderman, P. H., Roberts, D. F., & Fraleigh, M. J. (1987). The relation of parenting style to adolescent school performance.Child Development, 58, 1244–1257.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Dornbusch, S. M., Ritter, P. L., & Steinberg, L. (1991). Community influences on the relation of family statuses to adolescent school performance: Differences between African-American and non-Hispanic whites.American Journal of Education, August, 543–567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Duncan, G. J., Brooks-Gunn, J., & Klebanov, P. K. (1994). Economic deprivation and early childhood development.Child Development, 65, 296–318.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Engel, U., Nordlohne, E., Hurrelman, K., & Holler, B. (1987). Educational career and substance use in adolescence.European Journal of Psychological Education, 2, 365–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ensminger, M. E., & Slusarcick, A. L. (1992). Paths to high school graduation or dropout: A longitudinal study of a first-grade cohort.Sociology of Education, 65, 95–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Fordham, S. (1991). Peer-proofing academic competition among Black adolescents: “Acting white” Black American style. In C. E. Sleeter (Ed.).Empowerment through multicultural education. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  27. Fordham, S., & Ogbu, J. (1986). Black students' school success: Coping with the burden of “acting white”.Urban Review, 18, 176–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Furstenberg, F. (1992, March).Adapting to difficult environments: Neighborhood characteristics and family strategies. Symposium paper presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research on Adolescence, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  29. Garbarino, J., & Sherman, D. (1980). High-risk neighborhoods and high-risk families: The human ecology of child maltreatment.Child Development, 51, 188–198.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gephart, M. (1980). Neighborhood and communities in concentrated poverty.Items, 43, 84–92.Google Scholar
  31. Gibbs, J. T. (1990). Mental health issues of black adolescents: Implications for policy and practice. In A. R. Stiffman & L. E. Davis (Eds.)Ethnic issues in adolescent mental health. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  32. Gottfredson, D. L. (1981). Black-white differences in the educational attainment process: What have we learned?.American Sociological Review, 46, 542–557.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Greenberg, M. T. (1982).Reliability and validity of the Inventory of Adolescent Attachments. Unpublished manuscrip, University of Washington.Google Scholar
  34. Greenberg, M. T., Siegel, J. M., & Leitch, C. J. (1983). The nature and importance of attachment relationships to parents and peers during adolescence.Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 12, 373–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kenny, D. A., & Berman, J. S. (1980). Statistical approaches to the correction, of correlational bias.Psychological Bulletin, 88, 288–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Klebanov, P. K., Brooks-Gunn, J. B., & Duncan G. J. (1993).Does neighborhood and family poverty affect mother's parenting mental health, and social support. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  37. Kurdek, L. A. (1987). Gender differences in the psychological symptomatology and coping strategies of young adolescents.Journal of Early Adolescence, 7, 395–410.Google Scholar
  38. Levitt, M. J., Guacci-Franio, N., & Levitt, J. L. (1993). Convoys of social support in childhood and early adolescence: Structure and function.Developmental Psychology, 29, 811–818.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Maccoby, E. E., & Martin, J. A. (1983). Socialization in the context of the family: Parent-child interaction. In P. H. Mussen (Eds.),Handbook of child psychology (Vol. 4, pp. 1–101). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  40. McLoyd, V. C. (1990). Minority children: Intro to the special issue.Child Development, 61, 263–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Mickelson, R. (1990). The attitude-achievement paradox among black adolescents.Sociology of Education, 63, 44–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Patrick, B. C., Skinner, E. A., & Connell, J. P. (1993). What motivates children's behavior and emotion? Joint effects of perceived control and autonomy in the academic domain.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 781–791.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Paulson, S. E. (1994). Relations of parenting style and parental involvement with ninth-grade students achievement.Journal of Early Adolescence, 14, 250–267.Google Scholar
  44. Rickell, A. U., & Biasatti, L. R. (1982). Modification of the Block Child Rearing Practices Report.Journal of Clinical Psychology, 39, 129–134.Google Scholar
  45. Ryan, R. M., & Connell, J. P. (1989). Perceived locus of causality and internalization: Examining reasons for acting in two domains.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 749–761.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Ryan, R. M., Stiller, J. D., & Lynch, J. H. (1994). Representations of relationships to teachers, parents and friends as predictors of academic motivation and self-esteem.Journal of Early Adolescence, 14, 226–249.Google Scholar
  47. Sampson, R. J., & Groves, W. B. (1989). Community structure and crime: Testing social disorganization theory.American Journal of Sociology, 94, 774–802.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sampson, R. J., & Laub, J. H. (1993).Crime in the making: Pathways and turning points through life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Seidman, E., Allen, L., Aber, J. L., Mitchell, C., & Feinman, J. (1994). The impact of school transitions in early adolescence on the self-system and perceived social context of poor urban youth.Child Development, 65, 507–522.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Shaw, C., & McKay, H. (1969).Juvenile delinquency and urban area. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  51. Slaughter-Defoe, D. T., Nakagawa, K., Takanishi, R., & Johnson, D. J. (1990). Toward cultural/ecological perspectives on schooling and achievement in African-American and Asian-American children.Child Development, 61, 363–383.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Spencer, M. B., & Dornbusch, S. M. (1990). Challenges in studying minority youth. In S. S. Feldman & G. R. Elliott (Eds.),At the Threshold: The developing adolescent. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  53. Steinberg, L., & Darling, N. (1993). The broader context of social influence in adolescence. In R. Silbereisen & E. Todt (Eds.),Adolescence in context. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  54. Steinberg, L., Dornbusch, S. M. & Brown, B. B. (1992). Ethnic differences in adolescent achievement: An ecological perspective.American Psychologist, 47, 723–729.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Steinberg, L., Mounts, N. S., Lamborn, S. D., & Dornbusch, S. M. (1991). Authoritative parenting and adolescent adjustment across varied ecological niches.Journal of Research on Adolescence, 1, 19–36.Google Scholar
  56. Steinberg, L., Lamborn, S. D., Darling, N., Mounts, N. S., & Dornbusch, S. (1994). Over-time changes in adjustment and competence among adolescent from authoritative, authoritarian, indulgent, and neglectful families.Child Development, 64, 754–770.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Stevenson, H. W., Chen, C., & Uttal, D. H. (1990). Beliefs and achievement: A study of black, white, and Hispanic children.Child Development, 61, 508–523.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Trickett, P., Aber, M. L., Carlson, V., & Cicchetti, D. (1991). The relationship of socioeconomic status to the etiology and developmental sequelae of physical child abuse.Developmental Psychology, 27, 148–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nancy A. Gonzales
    • 1
  • Ana Mari Cauce
    • 2
  • Ruth J. Friedman
    • 1
  • Craig A. Mason
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyArizona State UniversityTempe
  2. 2.University of WashingtonUSA
  3. 3.University of MiamiUSA

Personalised recommendations