Social Psychology of Education

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 23–43 | Cite as

Academic achievement and behavioral health among Asian American and African American adolescents: testing the model minority and inferior minority assumptions

  • Arthur L. Whaley
  • La Tonya Noel


The present study tested the model minority and inferior minority assumptions by examining the relationship between academic performance and measures of behavioral health in a subsample of 3,008 (22 %) participants in a nationally representative, multicultural sample of 13,601 students in the 2001 Youth Risk Behavioral Survey, comparing Asian Americans (N = 408) and African Americans (N = 2,600). Specifically, the study examined associations of students’ self-reported grades with suicide risk, substance abuse, and violent behaviors. The findings revealed that high academic performance is a protective factor against behavioral health problems for both ethnic groups. The results raise questions about the focus on high achievement among Asian Americans versus academic underachievement among African Americans. Implications for theory, research, training and practice in addressing the mental health implications of achievement behavior in Asian American and African American youth are discussed.


Asian Americans African Americans Academic achievement Behavioral health Disidentification Sociocultural theories 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyTexas Southern UniversityHoustonUSA
  2. 2.College of Social WorkFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

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