Wednesday, October 29, 2014

An Exploration of Racial Identity, Self-Esteem, and School-Level Diversity for African and African American Adolescents in Seattle, Washington

Dolores Irene Blueford, Fielding's School of Human and Organizational Development

This two-phase, sequential mixed methods research study explored racial identity, self-esteem, and school-level diversity for African and African American adolescents in Seattle, Washington. The study addressed three research questions: 1. What are African American and African adolescents’ perceptions of the salience and meaning attached to their racial identity? 2. What is the significance of the relationship between perceptions of racial identity, interracial contact, and self-acceptance for African American and African adolescents within racially/ethnically diverse schools? 3. What are the lived experiences of African American and African adolescents related to racial identity, self-acceptance, and interracial contact within racially and ethnically diverse high schools?

Four assessment instruments were administered to 68 high school students who self-identified as African or African American, age 15-19 years, in grades 10-12, attending four high schools within the Seattle Public School District. The Multidimensional Inventory of Black Identity-Teen (MIBI-T; Scottham, Sellers, & Nyugen, 2008), Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSES; 1965), a researcher-modified version of the Interracial Contact Scale (Wegner & Shelton, 1995), and Demographic Data were administered. Nine survey respondents participated in three separate 2-hour small group sessions. One direct student interview was conducted. The representative reliability of the assessment instruments with the research population was a = .84 for the MIBI-T, a = .87 for the RSES, and a = .81 for the IRCS.

Hypotheses that scores on MIBI-T subscales were correlated with self-esteem and with having more and frequent interracial contact were partially supported. Four relevant themes were identified by a thematic analysis of extracted text from the group sessions and participant interview. The integration of the quantitative results and interpretations of the relevant themes resulted in three overarching findings: Participants reported (a) a high level of self-acceptance; (b) identities defined by factors other than race, and primarily by ethnicity, culture, and global concerns; (c) school-level diversity significantly influenced the frequency and quality of intergroup contact. These findings suggest that the growing influence of black immigrants has expanded perceptions and understanding of individual and black racial group identity, and qualitative meaning to being African American. The current study also challenged a prevailing idea of low self-esteem in black adolescents, and affirmed the positive influence of school-level diversity to black adolescents’ self-acceptance and positive intergroup interactions. Finally, the findings questioned the prevailing construct of race as a social and biological imperative, and research factor to exploring identity for adolescent participants.

Key words: adolescents, African, African American, intergroup contact, school-level diversity, self-esteem, race, racial identity

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