Skip to main content

African American Adolescents’ Academic Persistence: A Strengths-Based Approach

Abstract

African American adolescents are faced with the challenge to be successful academically, even though they may experience racial discrimination within school settings. Unfortunately, relatively little scholarship explores how African American adolescents draw on personal and cultural assets to persist and thrive in the face of discriminatory experiences. Additionally, little research has explored the buffering role of assets (e.g., racial pride, self-efficacy, and self-acceptance) on the relationship between school-based racial discriminatory experiences and the academic persistence of African American adolescents. Participants in the current study included 220 (58 % girls) socioeconomically diverse African American adolescents. Latent class analysis was utilized to identify clusters based on participants’ racial pride, self-efficacy, and self-acceptance. Three cluster groups were identified. The majority of the students belonged to the average group in which adolescents reported average levels of the three study assets. Adolescents in the higher group reported higher assets relative to their peers in the study and those in the lower group reported lower strength-based assets relative to their peers. Results indicated that school-based racial discrimination was associated with lower levels of academic persistence. Additionally, adolescents in the higher assets group reported higher academic persistence in comparison to the average and low group. Our model reflected a promotive but not protective influence of adolescents’ assets on their academic persistence.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

References

  • Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. London, UK: Sage Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  • Altschul, I., Oyserman, D., & Bybee, D. (2006). Racial-ethnic identity in mid-adolescence: Content and change as predictors of academic achievement. Child Development, 77(5), 1155–1169.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ambe, E. B. (2006). Fostering multicultural appreciation in preservice teachers through multicultural curricular transformation. Teaching and Teacher Education, 22(6), 690–699.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Argyropoulou, K., Sidiropoulou-Dimakakou, D., & Besevegis, E. (2007). Generalized self-efficacy, coping, career indecision, and vocational choices of senior high school students in Greece: Implications for career guidance practitioners. Journal of Career Development, 33(4), 316–337.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V. S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human behavior (Vol. 4, pp. 71-81). New York, NY: Academic Press. (Reprinted in H. Friedman (Ed.), Encyclopedia of mental health. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 1998).

  • Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Worth Publishers.

  • Bandura, A. (2001). Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 1–26.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Battle, E. S. (1965). Motivational determinants of academic task persistence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2(2), 209–218.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

  • Brown, L. L., & Robinson, K. S. (1997). Psychosocial factors influencing academic persistence of American Indian College Students. Journal of College Student Development, 38, 3–12.

    Google Scholar 

  • Butler-Barnes, S. T., Williams, T. T., & Chavous, T. M. (2012). Racial pride and religiosity among African American boys: Implications for academic motivation and achievement. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41(4), 486–498.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cabrera, A. F., Nora, A., Terenzini, P. T., Pascarella, E., & Hagedorn, L. S. (1999). Campus racial climate and the adjustment of students to college: A comparison between White students and African-American students. Journal of Higher Education, 134–160.

  • Caldwell, L. D., & Siwatu, K. O. (2003). Promoting academic persistence in African American and Latino high school students: The educational navigation skills seminar in an upward bound program. The High School Journal, 87(1), 30–38.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Caldwell, C. H., Kohn-Wood, L. P., Schmeelk-Cone, K. H., Chavous, T. M., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2004). Racial discrimination and racial identity as risk and protective factors for violent behaviors in African American young adults. American Journal of Community Psychology, 33, 91–105.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Caldwell, C., Guthrie, B., & Jackson, J. (2005). Identity development, discrimination, and psychological well-being among African American and Caribbean Black adolescents. In A. Schulz & L. Mullings (Eds.), Gender, race, class, and health. New York: Jossey-Bass.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cejda, B. D., & Rewey, K. L. (1998). The effect of academic factors on transfer student persistence and graduation: A community college to liberal arts college case study. Community College Journal of Research & Practice, 22, 675–686.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chavous, T. M., Rivas-Drake, D., Smalls, C., Griffin, T., & Cogburn, C. (2008). Gender matters, too: The influences of school racial discrimination and racial identity on academic engagement outcomes among African American adolescents. Developmental Psychology, 44(3), 637–654.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chemers, M. M., Hu, L., & Garcia, B. F. (2001). Academic self-efficacy and first year college student performance and adjustment. Journal of Education Psychology, 93(1), 55–64.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Clark, R., Anderson, N. B., Clark, V. R., & Williams, D. R. (1999). Racism as a stressor for African Americans: A biopsychosocial model. American Psychologist, 54, 805–816.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cokley, K. O. (2007). Critical issues in the measurement of ethnic and racial identity: A referendum on the state of the field. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 54, 224–239.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cooper, S. M., McLoyd, V. C., Wood, D. A., & Hardaway, C. R. (2008). Racial discrimination and the mental health of African American adolescents. In C. McKown & S. Quintana (Eds.), The handbook of race, racism, and the developing child. New York: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Crocker, J., & Major, B. (1989). Social stigma and self-esteem: The self-protective properties of stigma. Psychological Review, 96(4), 608.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dubey, R. S. (1982). Trait persistence, sex differences, and educational achievement. Perspective in Psychological Research, 5, 15–18.

    Google Scholar 

  • Eccles, J. S., Wong, C. A., & Peck, S. C. (2006). Ethnicity as a social context for the development of African-American adolescents. Journal of School Psychology, 44, 407–426.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ellis, A. (1994). Reason and emotion in psychotherapy: Revised and updated. New York: Carol Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ellis, A. (1998). How to control your anxiety before it controls you. Secaucus, NJ: Carol Publishing Group.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ellis, A. (2005). The myth of self-esteem: How rational emotive behavior therapy can change your life forever. Author: Albert Ellis, Publish.

    Google Scholar 

  • English, H. B., & English, A. C. (1958). A comprehensive dictionary of psychological and psychoanalytical terms. New York: Longmans, Green and Co.

    Google Scholar 

  • Erikson, E. (1950). Childhood and society. New York: Norton.

  • Fergus, S., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2005). Adolescent resilience: A framework for understanding healthy development in the face of risk. Annual Review of Public Health, 26, 399–419.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fisher, C. B., Wallace, S. A., & Fenton, R. E. (2000). Discrimination distress during adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 29, 679–695.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ford, D. Y. (1993). Support for the achievement ideology and determinants of underachievement as perceived by gifted, above average, and average African American students. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 16(3), 280–298.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fordham, S., & Ogbu, J. U. (1986). Black students’ school success: Coping with the “burden of ‘acting white’”. The Urban Review, 18(3), 176–206.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • García-Coll, C. T., Lamberty, G., Jenkins, R., McAdoo, H. P., Crnic, K., Wasik, B. H., et al. (1996). An integrative model for the study of developmental competencies in minority children. Child Development, 67(5), 1891–1914.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Graham, S. W., & Hughes, J. C. (1994). Moving down the road: Community college student’s academic performance at the university. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 18, 449–464.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hardre, P. L., & Reeve, J. (2003). A motivational of rural students’ performance intentions to, persist in, versus drop out of, high school. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95(2), 347–356.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jackson, M. H., & Canada, R. (1995). Self-concept and math among potential school dropouts. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 22(3), 234–237.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jersild, A. T. (1960). Child psychology. London: Prentice-Hall.

    Google Scholar 

  • Johnson, N. T., & Richardson, R. C. (1986). A causal model of academic factors affecting student persistence. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (70th, San Francisco, CA, April 1996).

  • Jonson-Reid, M., Davis, L., Saunders, J., Williams, T., & Williams, J. H. (2005). Academic self-efficacy among African American youths: Implications for school social work practice. Children & schools, 27(1), 5–14.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Juster, F. T., Ono, H., & Stafford, F. P. (2004). Changing times of American youth: 1981–2003. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan,

    Google Scholar 

  • King, S. E., & Chepyator-Thomson, J. R. (1996). Factors affecting the enrollment and persistence of African-American doctoral students. Physical Educator, 53(4), 170–180.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ladson-Billings, G. J. (1999). Preparing teachers for diverse student populations: A critical race theory perspective. Review of Research in Education, 24, 211–247.

    Google Scholar 

  • Langeheine, R., Pannekoek, J., & Van de Pol, F. (1996). Bootstrapping goodness-of-fit measures in categorical data analysis. Sociological Methods & Research, 24(4), 492–516.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Le, T. N., & Stockdale, G. (2011). The influence of school demographic factors and perceived student discrimination on delinquency trajectory in adolescence. Journal of Adolescent Health, 49(4), 407–413.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lindley, L. D., & Borgen, F. H. (2002). Generalized self-efficacy, holland theme self- efficacy, and academic performance. Journal of Career Assessment, 10, 301–314.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Magidson, J., & Vermunt, J. K. (2004). Latent class models. In D. Kaplan (Ed.), The Sage handbook of quantitative methodology for the social sciences, chapter 10 (pp. 175–198). Thousand Oakes: Sage Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  • McBride Murry, V., Brody, G. H., McNair, L. D., Luo, Z., Gibbons, F. X., Gerrard, M., et al. (2005). Parental involvement promotes rural African American youths’ self-pride and sexual self-concepts. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67(3), 627–642.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McClendon, C., & Wigfield, A. (1998). Group differences in African American adolescents achievement-related beliefs about math and science: An initial study. Journal of African American Psychology, 24(1), 28–43.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mickelson, R. A. (1990). The attitude-achievement paradox among African American adolescents. Sociology of Education, 63(1), 44–61.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mitchell, J. V. (1959). Goal-setting behavior as a function of self-acceptance over and under achievement, and related personality variables. Journal of Educational Psychology, 50(3), 93–104.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • National Center for Education Statistics. (2012). The Condition of Education 2012 (NCES 2012–045), Indicator 48. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.

  • Natvig, G. K., Albreksten, G., & Qvarnstrom, U. (2003). Associations between psychosocial factors and happiness among school adolescents. International Journal of Nursing Practice, 9, 166–175.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Neblett, E. W., Philip, C. L., Cogburn, C., & Sellers, R. M. (2006). African American adolescents’ discrimination experiences and academic achievement: Racial socialization as a cultural promotive and protective factor. Journal of Black Psychology, 32(2), 199–218.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Osborne, J. W. (1997). Race and academic disidentification. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89(4), 728.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Perkins, H. V. (1958). Factors influencing change in children’s self-concepts. Child Development, 29, 221–230.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent image. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rosenbloom, S. R., & Way, N. (2004). Experiences of discrimination among African American, Asian American, and Latino adolescents in an urban high school. Youth & Society, 35(4), 420–451.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Russell, M. L., & Atwater, M. M. (2005). Traveling the road to success: A discourse on persistence throughout the science pipeline with African American students at a predominantly white institution. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 42(6), 691–715.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ryff, C. D. (1995). Psychological well-being in adult life. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 4, 99–104.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sanders-Phillips, K., Settles-Reaves, B., Walker, D., & Brownlow, J. (2009). Social inequality and racial discrimination: risk factors for health disparities in children of color. Pediatrics, 124(Supplement 3), S176–S186.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schafer, J. L. (1997). Analysis of incomplete multivariate data. London: Chapman & Hall.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Schunk, D. H. (1984). The self-efficacy perspective on achievement behavior. Education Psychologist, 19, 119–218.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schunk, D. H. (1989). Social cognitive theory and self-regulated learning. In B. J. Zimmerman & D. H. Schunk (Eds.), Self-regulated learning and academic achievement: Theory, research, and practice (pp. 83–110). New York: Springer.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Scottham, K. M., Sellers, R. M., & Nguyen, H. X. (2008). A measure of racial identity in African American adolescents: The development of the Multidimensional Inventory of African American Identity-Teen. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 14, 297–306.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sellers, R. M., Chavous, T. M., & Cooke, D. Y. (1998). Racial ideology and racial centrality as predictors of African American college students’ academic performance. Journal of Black Psychology, 24(1), 8–27.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sellers, R., Copeland-Linder, N., Martin, P., & Lewis, R. (2006). Racial identity matters: The relationship between racial discrimination and psychological functioning in African American adolescents. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 16(2), 187–216.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Shepard, L. A. (1979). Self-acceptance: The evaluative component of the self-concept construct. American Educational Research Journal, 16(2), 139–160.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smalls, C., White, R., Chavous, T., & Sellers, R. (2007). Racial ideological beliefs and racial discrimination experiences as predictors of academic engagement among African American adolescents. Journal of Black Psychology, 33, 299–330.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smith, C., & Carlson, B. E. (1997). Stress, coping, and resilience in children and youth. Social Service Review, 71, 231–256.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Spencer, M. B., Cunningham, M., & Swanson, D. P. (1995). Identity as coping: Adolescent African-American males’ adaptive responses to high-risk environments. In H. W. Harris, H. C. Blue, & E. H. Griffith (Eds.), Racial and ethnic identity: Psychological development and creative expression (pp. 31–52). New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Spencer, M. B., Dupree, D., & Hartmann, T. (1997). A phenomenological variant of ecological systems theory (PVEST): A self-organization perspective in context. Development and Psychopathology, 9(4), 817–833.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Steele, C. M. (1997). A threat in the air: How stereotypes shape intellectual identity and performance. American Psychologist, 52(6), 613.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thompson, A. R., & Gregory, A. (2011). Examining the influence of perceived discrimination during African American adolescents early years of high school. Education and Urban Society, 43(1), 3–25.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tucker, C. M., & Herman, K. C. (2002). Using culturally sensitive theories and research to meet the academic needs of low-income African American children. American Psychologist, 57(10), 762–773.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vanneman, A., Hamilton, L., Baldwin Anderson, J., & Rahman, T. (2009). Achievement Gaps: How Black and White Students in Public Schools Perform in Mathematics and Reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, (NCES 2009-455). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.

  • Wang, M. T., & Huguley, J. P. (2012). Parental racial socialization as a moderator of the effects of racial discrimination on educational success among African American adolescents. Child Development, 83(5), 1716–1731.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wellborn, J. G. (1991). Engaged and disaffected action: The conceptualization and measurement of motivation in the academic domain. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY.

  • Wong, C. A., Eccles, J. S., & Sameroff, A. (2003). The influence of ethnic discrimination and ethnic identification on African American adolescents’ school and socio- emotional adjustment. Journal of Personality, 71(6), 1197–1232.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zimmerman, M. A., Caldwell, C. H., & Bernat, D. H. (2006). Discrepancy between self-report and school-record grade point average: Correlates with psychosocial outcomes among African American adolescents. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 32(1), 86–109.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zumberg, K. M., Chang, E. C., & Sanna, L. J. (2008). Does problem orientation involve more than generalized self-efficacy? Predicting psychological and physical functioning in college students. Personality and Individual Differences, 45(4), 328–332.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation, Grant No. 0820309. We thank the adolescents for participating in this study and the schools for their support. We also thank the three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on previous versions of this manuscript.

Author Contributions

SBB conceived of the study, participated in the research design, drafted the manuscript, and performed the statistical analyses and interpretation of the data. TC is the principal investigator of the research study and helped to draft the manuscript. NH and FV helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sheretta T. Butler-Barnes.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Butler-Barnes, S.T., Chavous, T.M., Hurd, N. et al. African American Adolescents’ Academic Persistence: A Strengths-Based Approach. J Youth Adolescence 42, 1443–1458 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-013-9962-0

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-013-9962-0

Keywords

  • African American adolescents
  • Academic achievement
  • School-based racial discrimination
  • Strength-based assets