STUDY: More Race Pride Equals Academic Success

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  • A new study finds black teens reared to have a higher sense of ethnic pride and awareness are more likely to have far greater academic success. They are also less probable to be vulnerable to the crippling effects of racial discrimination exuded by their peers or even teachers.

    Slated to be published in the Journal of Child Development later this fall, the University of Pittsburgh study also concluded that preparing teens for such potential biasness likewise acts as a protective shield and “black children instilled with a proud and sober sense of identity and culture” are undeniably better fortified to overcome such perplexing attacks.

    “The research shows that when African American parents use racial socialization— talking to their children or engaging in activities that promote feelings of racial knowledge, pride and connection— it offsets racial discrimination’s potentially negative impact on academic developments,” researchers concluded. “When African American parents instill a proud perspective of race in their sons and daughters, these children are more likely to experience increased academic success.”

    Despite a plethora of earlier studies which have concluded that parental racial socialization is beneficial to the mental health of black youth, most have concluded African American students, particularly males, remain at much greater risk for being unfairly disciplined, doled lower grades than they deserve and discouraged from taking advanced level courses, all because of their race.  Heretofore, few researchers have even remotely looked at how such race based daily experiences temper the way youths view or approach their educational prospects.

    “Our findings challenge the notion that ‘race blindness’ is a universally ideal parenting approach, especially since previous research has shown that racially conscious parenting strategies at either extreme— either ‘race blindness’ or promoting mistrust of other races— are associated with negative outcomes for African American youth,” said lead author Ming-Te Wang, Pitt assistant professor of psychology in education, who coauthored the study with Harvard’s James P. Huguley.

    Formally titled “Parental Racial Socialization as a Moderator of the Effects of Racial Discrimination on Educational Success Among African Adolescents,” the research was funded by a grant provided by the National Institute of child Health and Human Development.

    In further contrast to other related studies, Wang and Huguley also focused on the role racial discrimination plays in impacting such varied outcomes as student grade-point averages, long term educational aspirations, the sense of belonging to an institution and cognitive engagement, which is defined as the initiative a student takes in his or her own learning.

    From there, the two scholars set out to determine how all those are affected by the variable of parental racial socialization. Using a combination of questionnaires and face-to-face interviews of both students and parents, the study intensely explores the home and school racial experiences of some 630 black high school students from a diverse though mostly black and urban East Coast area.

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