Adolescents' ethnic minority status as it relates to school involvement and academic performance

Nicola Allison Holder, Pace University


Research indicates that African American adolescents attending inner city schools are underachieving when compared to their counterparts in other ethnic groups, as measured by standardized test scores, drop out rates, and disproportionately low rates of placements in advanced, gifted, or honors programs, among other indices. Existing theories and explanatory models have proposed that factors such as heredity, “cultural deprivation”, and/or differences in learning styles may account for differences in adolescents' academic performance and school-related behaviors. In contrast, Ogbu (1978, 1990, 1991) proposed that in order to accurately assess students' behaviors in the school setting, researchers must look at how they have been socialized to view education, as these perceptions play a critical role in demonstrations of competence. According to Ogbu's theory, African American adolescents' status as involuntary minorities negatively shapes their attitudes about education and the behaviors that they demonstrate in school. Conversely, adolescents in immigrant families, i.e., voluntary minorities, hold more positive attitudes about education and demonstrate more vigorous school involvement and better academic performance. Ogbu's theory has found some support in qualitative studies conducted in the past two decades. However, the relationships are not strictly linear. The literature indicates that parental support, peer support, and the adolescents' own attitudes about education are critical, inter-related, factors that help to determine adolescents' school related behaviors. However, there have been little or no intra-racial, inter-ethnic studies conducted using quantifiable data to evaluate Ogbu's theory, particularly within the context of these variables. Thus, the current study sought to examine the relationship between ethnic minority status, parental support, peer support, and attitudes about education in a sample of Black adolescents: African Americans and West Indians. The sample consisted of 115 adolescents enrolled in two public schools in Brooklyn and Queens, New York. Participants completed a research protocol which included four questionnaires to glean salient data regarding their ethnic minority status, parental support, peer support, attitudes about education and their level of school involvement and academic performance. Hypotheses were developed based on significant literature findings and in keeping with Ogbu's thesis. Data were analyzed using t-test analyses and Pearson Product-Moment Correlation analyses to determine the nature of relationships among these variables. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Bilingual education|Multicultural education|African Americans

Recommended Citation

Holder, Nicola Allison, "Adolescents' ethnic minority status as it relates to school involvement and academic performance" (2002). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3048335.



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