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Racial Socialization, Racial Identity, and Academic Attitudes Among African American Adolescents: Examining the Moderating Influence of Parent-Adolescent Communication

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A significant gap remains in our understanding of the conditions under which parents’ racial socialization has consequences for adolescents’ functioning. The present study used longitudinal data to examine whether the frequency of communication between African American parents and adolescents (N= 504; 49% female) moderates the association between parent reports of racial socialization (i.e., cultural socialization and preparation for bias) at 8th grade and adolescent reports of racial identity (perceived structural discrimination, negative public regard, success-oriented centrality) at 11th grade, and in turn, academic attitudes and perceptions. Parents’ racial socialization practices were significant predictors of multiple aspects of adolescents’ racial identity in families with high levels of communication, but they did not predict any aspects of adolescents’ racial identity in families with low levels of communication. Results highlight the importance of including family processes when examining the relations between parents’ racial socialization and adolescents’ racial identity and academic attitudes and perceptions.
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RACIAL SOCIALIZATION 1
Running head: RACIAL SOCIALIZATION
Racial Socialization, Racial Identity, and Academic Attitudes among African American
Adolescents: Examining the Moderating Influence of Parent-Adolescent Communication
Sandra Tang, Vonnie C. McLoyd, and Samantha K. Hallman
University of Michigan
Citation:
Tang, S., McLoyd, V. C., & Hallman, S. K. Racial Socialization, Racial Identity, and Academic
Attitudes among African American Adolescents: Examining the Moderating Influence of Parent-
Adolescent Communication. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. Advance online publication.
http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10964-015-0351-8
This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the
copy of record.
Acknowledgements
Support for this article was provided in part by Award Number T32HD007109 from the Eunice
Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development awarded to the first
author. Correspondence concerning this article should be sent to Sandra Tang, Department of
Psychology, University of Michigan, East Hall, 530 Church Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1043.
Email: sandtang@umich.edu; Telephone: 973.255.6108
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Abstract
A significant gap remains in our understanding of the conditions under which parents’ racial
socialization has consequences for adolescents’ functioning. The present study used longitudinal
data to examine whether the frequency of communication between African American parents and
adolescents (N= 504; 49% female) moderates the association between parent reports of racial
socialization (i.e., cultural socialization and preparation for bias) at 8th grade and adolescent
reports of racial identity (perceived structural discrimination, negative public regard, success-
oriented centrality) at 11th grade, and in turn, academic attitudes and perceptions. Parents’ racial
socialization practices were significant predictors of multiple aspects of adolescents’ racial
identity in families with high levels of communication, but they did not predict any aspects of
adolescents’ racial identity in families with low levels of communication. Results highlight the
importance of including family processes when examining the relations between parents’ racial
socialization and adolescents’ racial identity and academic attitudes and perceptions.
Keywords: racial socialization, racial identity, parent-child communication, adolescence
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Introduction
Racial socialization refers to the process by which parents transmit both implicit and
explicit messages about the meaning of one’s race in a broader societal context (Coard & Sellers,
2005). It is a salient aspect of parenting among African Americans (Hughes & Johnson, 2001),
and one that most frequently centers on cultural socialization (i.e., messages about cultural
heritage, cultural traditions, racial pride) and preparation for bias (i.e., messages about racial
discrimination and strategies for coping with discrimination) (Hughes et al., 2006). Adolescent
racial identity is the most commonly investigated outcome of parents’ racial socialization, a
pattern attributable to the fact that the goal of many racial socialization practices is instilling a
sense of racial pride and cultural knowledge in children (Hughes et al., 2006) and the fact that
the development of racial identity among African Americans is a salient psychosocial task during
the adolescent years (Phinney, 1989).
Relations Between Parents’ Racial Socialization and Adolescents’ Racial Identity
Most investigations of African Americans indicate that cultural socialization, and
parents’ racial socialization more generally, is associated with indicators of racial identity
(Hughes et al., 2006). Evidence exists that adolescents whose parents engage in more racial
socialization have a greater tendency to question allegiance to the dominant culture’s worldview
of African Americans (Marshall, 1995), express greater appreciation for African American
culture (Stevenson, 1995), and manifest a stronger and more positive orientation to African
Americans and their culture (McHale et al., 2006; Wills et al., 2007). More recently, researchers
have found that racial socialization profiles characterized by high levels of racial pride, self-
worth, and preparation for bias messages are associated with higher levels of racial centrality
among African American adolescents (Neblett, Smalls, Ford, Nguyen, & Sellers, 2009).
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Several studies linking parents’ racial socialization and adolescents’ racial identity have
two methodological limitations that we address in the present study. First, most are based on
cross-sectional data (e.g., McHale et al., 2006), which provide no basis for inferences about
causal or temporal relations. Second, several studies rely on adolescent reports as indicators of
both parents racial socialization and adolescent ethnic identity, potentially inflating estimated
relations between these two variables due to shared method variance (e.g., Neblett et al., 2009;
Stevenson, 1995). The handful of studies assessing correspondence between adolescent and
parent reports of racial socialization find weak to modest correspondence, suggesting nontrivial
incongruence in messages that parents communicate and adolescents’ perceptions of these
messages (Hughes et al., 2008; Thomas & King, 2007). In a study of a racially and ethnically
diverse sample of adolescents that measured both parent and adolescent reports of racial
socialization, only adolescent reports were associated with racial identity (Hughes, Hagelskamp,
Way, & Foust, 2009). The present study used longitudinal data and different informants to
provide a stronger test of the relationship between parents’ racial socialization and adolescent
racial identity. In particular, we examined whether racial socialization (i.e., cultural socialization
and preparation for bias) as reported by parents predicted adolescents’ reports of racial identity
three years later.
Several considerations led us to focus on the developmental period between 8th and 11th
grade. First, identity development is a salient psychosocial task during this perioda task that
involves attempts to integrate and consolidate components of the self, including ethnicity and
race, into a coherent whole (Erikson, 1968; Hughes, 2003). Second, for many African American
youth, this period may be marked by greater salience of racial cleavages among peers (e.g.,
dating) and increased exposure to racial discrimination as they spend more time outside of the
home (Fisher, Wallace & Fenton, 2000; Romero & Roberts, 1998; Tatum, 1997). Consistent with
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Cross’s (1971) “encounter” stage of African American identity development, these developments
are likely to propel youth into exploration of their racial identity. In a similar vein, French and
colleagues’ research suggests that the transition from middle school to high school is particularly
promotive of racial and ethnic identity exploration due to higher levels of racial and ethnic
diversity in the student populations in high schools (French, Seidman, Allen & Aber, 2000).
Adolescence is a developmental period of interest in relation to parental racial socialization as
well. Compared to African American parents of younger children, African American parents of
adolescents report transmitting preparation for bias messages more frequently and are more
likely to translate their own discrimination experiences into conversations with their children
about racial bias (Hughes, 2003; Hughes & Chen, 1997). These differences likely reflect parents’
sensitivity to age-related differences in children’s ability to understand racial issues as well as
parents’ reactions to children’s information-seeking and first-hand experiences with racial bias as
they get older and spend less time with their parents (Hughes & Chen, 1997). In sum, whether
racial socialization in early adolescence is linked to racial identity during late adolescence is a
well-motivated question because messages about racial bias markedly increase during
adolescence and because the search for racial identity often occurs in an increasingly racialized
environment.
Drawing on conceptual and empirical work by Sellers and colleagues (Sellers, Smith,
Shelton, Rowley, & Chavous, 1998) and Oyserman, Harrison, and Bybee (2001), we focused on
three aspects of racial identity, specifically, success-oriented racial centrality (extent to which
feelings of success are tied to African American identity), negative public regard (adolescents’
perception that others view African Americans unfavorably), and perceived structural
discrimination. Perceived structural discrimination has not been previously identified as a
dimension of identity in the MMRI; but as a concept, aligns with Sellers et al.’s (1998) assertion
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that “the qualitative meaning that [Blacks] ascribe to membership in [their] racial group” (p. 806)
is an important component of Black identity. It is conceptually similar to public regard in that it
assesses perceptions of others’ (i.e., society’s) evaluative judgments of African Americans.
However, perceived structural discrimination and public regard differ in that the former focuses
on more indirect, implicit indicators of racism in which there is no identifiable, individual
perpetrator, whereas the latter assesses more explicit, personally mediated indicators of racism.
Our rationale for focusing on these aspects of racial identity was multi-faceted. First,
prior research indicates that centrality and regard are more stable across contexts than other
dimensions of racial identity (e.g., salience) (Sellers et al., 1998). Second, centrality is a fairly
consistent correlate of cultural socialization (e.g., McHale et al., 2006), whereas negative or
lower public regard is more consistently linked to preparation for bias (e.g., Rivas-Drake, 2011).
We focused on success-oriented centrality, rather than racial centrality more generally, because
of our interest in academic attitudes/perceptions, discussed below, and our presumption that the
former has stronger implications for these academic outcomes than the latter. In a similar vein,
we gave negative public regard and perceived structural discrimination selective attention
because these aspects of identity have well-documented links to lower achievement values,
school engagement, and school achievement (Oyserman et al., 2001; Smith, Atkins, & Connell,
2003; Taylor & Graham, 2007).
Relations between Adolescents’ Racial Identity and Academic Attitudes and Perceptions
A second goal of the present study was to determine whether different dimensions of
racial identity are differentially related to adolescents’ attitudes about school and perceptions of
their academic competence. Several studies have found that aspects of racial/ethnic identity are
related to academic outcomes among racial/ethnic minority youth. Among African American
adolescents, pro-Black attitudes and psychological connectedness to the Black community (i.e.,
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centrality) have been linked to positive academic efficacy, attitudes, and behavior (Oyserman, et
al., 2001; Resnicow, Soler, Braithwaite, Selassie & Smith,1999), and positive private regard is
associated with increased school attachment, academic efficacy, grades, and standardized test
scores (Chavous et al., 2003; Smith et al., 2003). In contrast, awareness of racism and barriers
(i.e. negative public regard) has been associated with lower grades and standardized test scores
(Oyserman et al., 2001; Smith et al., 2003).
There is also evidence that more differentiated racial-ethnic self-schemas have
implications for adolescents’ academic outcomes. In a series of studies involving African
American, Latino, American Indian and Arab-Palestinian Israelis attending middle schools and
high schools, Oyserman, Kemmelmeier, Fryberg, Brosh and Hart-Johnson (2003) found that
school success as measured by GPA was higher among youth with a “dual identity” (i.e., strong
identification with the in-group and with larger society) or a “minority identity” (i.e., strong
identification as a member of an in-group that must fight to overcome obstacles to attain larger
societal resources), compared to youth who did not identify themselves in racial-ethnic terms
(i.e., low centrality) or who identified themselves only in terms of their in-group without
reference to membership in larger society (i.e., high centrality).
Parent-Adolescent Relations as a Moderating Influence
The primary contribution of the present study is its examination of whether the frequency
of communication between parents and their adolescent moderates the association between
parents’ racial socialization and adolescents’ racial identity. Family systems frameworks have
brought into sharper focus questions about how parents’ racial socialization messages and
children’s responses to and instigation of these messages are connected to characteristics of the
parent-child relationship. These questions are to be expected because parents’ racial socialization
RACIAL SOCIALIZATION 8
messages are not transmitted in a vacuum, but within the context of a relationship (Frabutt,
Walker, & MacKinnon-Lewis, 2002; McHale et al., 2006; Smalls, 2009).
However, studies examining these questions are quite sparse. Some research has assessed
the frequency of racial socialization messages in relation to aspects of the parent-child
relationship such as warmth, communication, negativity, monitoring and involvement (Frabutt et
al., 2002). A few studies have gone beyond bivariate descriptive analyses to examine whether
the affective quality of the parent-child relationship moderates the association between parents’
racial socialization and adolescents’ outcomes (Cooper & McLoyd, 2011; McHale et al., 2006;
Smalls, 2009; Williams & Smalls-Glover, 2014). Predicated largely on Darling and Steinberg’s
(1993) premise that a positive emotional climate enhances the effectiveness of parents’
socialization practices because it promotes adolescents’ willingness to be socialized, these
studies generally hypothesize that a more positive emotional climate will strengthen the
association between parents’ racial socialization and adolescents’ psychosocial adjustment.
However, empirical support for this hypothesis is quite thin.
McHale et al.’s (2006) study of two-parent African American families found no evidence
that parents’ self-reported racial socialization messages (i.e., preparation for bias, cultural
socialization) were more strongly related to adolescents’ self-reports of racial identity, locus of
control, or depressive symptomatology under conditions of high parental warmth. In Cooper and
McLoyd’s (2011) investigation of African American single mothers and their adolescent
children, contrary to prediction, adolescents whose mothers reported more preparation for bias
messages had lower self-esteem and higher depressive symptomatology under conditions of high
maternal warmth and support (adolescent report).
Williams and Smalls-Glover (2014) found that adolescents’ attributions about parents’
motives for racial socialization (e.g., because they “love you,” “want what is best for you”) did
RACIAL SOCIALIZATION 9
not moderate the relationship between two types of parental messages (i.e., racial barriers, racial
pride) and African American adolescents’ racial identity. In another investigation focusing on
adolescents’ task persistence and school engagement, rather than racial identity, Smalls (2009)
reported evidence of democratic-involved parenting (characterized by democratic decision-
making and high levels of warmth and involvement) as a moderating influence, but estimates of
this influence may be inflated because adolescents were the informants for all variables. Racial
barrier messages were positively associated with task persistence and school engagement among
adolescents who perceived their mothers as high in democratic-involved parenting, but
negatively related with task persistence and school engagement among adolescents who
perceived their mothers as low in democratic-involved parenting. Democratic-involved
parenting did not moderate the association between other dimensions of racial socialization (i.e.,
racial pride messages, self-worth messages) and task persistence/school engagement. Taken
together, the findings from these four studies provide virtually no evidence that a more positive
emotional climate strengthens the association between parents’ racial socialization and
adolescents’ positive psychosocial adjustment.
Study Objectives and Hypotheses
A significant gap remains in our understanding of the conditions under which parents’
racial socialization has consequences for adolescents’ psychosocial functioning (McHale et al.,
2006). Arguably, some of the most proximate of these conditions exists within the family. As
discussed above, prior research relevant to this issue has focused on parental warmth, but the
findings mainly have been null or inconsistent with conceptually-grounded expectations. Other
dimensions of the parent-child relationship may be more fertile grounds for advancing
knowledge about family processes that condition the association between racial socialization and
adolescent racial identity. In addition to its attention to parental warmth, parental socialization
RACIAL SOCIALIZATION 10
research has long focused on parent-child communication, a variable that itself involves multiple
dimensions such as processes, patterns, style, frequency, and content (Darling & Steinberg,
1993; Ennett, Bauman, Foshee, Pemberton, & Hicks, 2001; Moschis, 1985). The present study
directs attention to the frequency of parent-child communication, in particular, how often the
adolescent talks with the parent about aspects of their daily lives (e.g., friendship relations,
problems at school) and about their future. Parent-child communication is essential in creating
mutual understanding of family values, expectations, and rules. It may be uniquely important
during adolescence because it affords opportunities for discussion of these issues, as well as
opportunities for adolescents to solicit and parents to offer support and counsel, at a time when
adolescents are negotiating a bevy of new experiences and psychosocial challenges. At the same
time, because adolescents are spending less time with their parents, experiencing less intimacy
with them and more intimacy with peers, and exerting a strong need for autonomy, the
significance of parent-child communication for child functioning may be different during
adolescence than prior developmental periods (Laursen & Collins, 2013).
Using longitudinal data, we examined whether frequency of parent-adolescent
communication moderates the association between parents’ reports of racial socialization (i.e.,
cultural socialization and preparation for bias) at Time 1 (8th grade) and adolescents’ reports of
racial identity at Time 2 (11th grade). Greater dialogue between adolescents and their parents
during the course of daily life may maintain and/or strengthen the parent-adolescent bond
(Laursen & Collins, 2013) and reflect and/or cultivate a climate in which adolescents are more
likely to accurately perceive, accept, and internalize parents’ racial socialization messages. In
turn, adolescents may be more likely to develop racial identities congruent with these messages.
Hence, we hypothesized that in the context of high levels of parent-adolescent communication,
RACIAL SOCIALIZATION 11
in contrast to low levels of parent-adolescent communication, parents’ racial socialization
messages will be more strongly related to adolescents’ racial identity.
Turning to the association between adolescents’ racial identity and academic-related
outcomes, we predicted that perceived structural discrimination and negative public regard
would be associated with less positive attitudes about school and lower perceptions of academic
competence, in keeping with prior findings (Oyserman et al., 2001; Smith et al., 2003).
However, we expected success-oriented racial centrality to be positively associated with school
attitudes and perceptions of academic competence. In addition, we expected parent-adolescent
communication to moderate these associations. Although a number of studies have assessed the
moderating effect of parenting style on the relation between specific parenting practices and
child outcomes (e.g., Smalls, 2009) and the main effects of parent-child communication (e.g.,
Ennett et al., 2001), we are not aware of child socialization studies that investigate the
moderating effects of parent-child communication. Ceballo, Dahl, Aretakis, and Ramirez’s
(2001) investigation of children’s exposure to community violence gives some indirect evidence
that parent-child communication may be implicated in family processes that moderate the impact
of children’s exposure to acute and chronic stressors. These researchers found that higher levels
of mother-child concordance regarding children’s experiences with community violence were
significantly associated with fewer internalizing behavior problems in children. It is highly
plausible that higher levels of mother-child concordance were partly a product of more frequent
parent-child communication and in turn, increased levels of parental awareness of the child’s
exposure and response to community violence (Ceballo, Kennedy, Bregman, & Epstein-Ngo,
2012). Drawing on Ceballo et al.’s investigation and analyses (Ceballo et al., 2001, 2012), we
assumed that greater parent-adolescent communication enhances parents’ awareness of their
adolescent’s attitudes and perceptions, which in turn affords more opportunities for parents to
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shape adolescent attitudes and perceptions in ways that promote positive academic outcomes.
Adolescents whose parents frequently transmit messages about racial bias may perceive more
structural discrimination and negative public regard. However, given the high value that most
parents attach to education, we expected that any tendency for these adolescent perceptions to
translate into negative attitudes about school and low perceived competence would be mitigated
by high levels of parent-adolescent communication. Following this line of reasoning, we
hypothesized that in the context of high parent-adolescent communication, the hypothesized
negative association between perceived structural discrimination (and negative public regard)
and academic outcomes would be weaker, while the hypothesized positive link between racial
centrality and academic outcomes would be stronger.
Method
Sample
Data for this study were drawn from the Maryland Adolescent Development in Context
Study (MADICS; Eccles, 1997), which collected six waves of data on 1,482 families living in
Prince George’s County from 1991 to 2000. The MADICS included both African American
families (61%) and European American families and is unique because the African American
families represent a wide range of socioeconomic statuses even though they all lived in one
county. The details on sampling and data collection procedures are available at
http://www.rcgd.isr.umich.edu/pgc/home.htm.
The present study is based on African-American adolescents with data in 8th (1993) and
11th grades (1996/1997; n =924), the two time points in the MADICS data that contained the
most complete data on our variables of interest during the transition to high school. The
adolescents missing data on all the variables pertaining to parent-adolescent communication and
adolescent racial identity were excluded from our analysis. The final analytic sample contained
504 11-13 year olds and their primary caregivers (92% female) in 1997. The families in our
RACIAL SOCIALIZATION 13
sample had a median household income of $31,000. In 33% of the families in our sample, the
highest level of parental education was less than a high school degree. In contrast, 36% of the
families reported at least one parent graduating high school. Around 18% of the families in our
sample had at least one parent who attended some college, and about 7% of the families had at
least one parent with a college degree. Finally, 6% of the families in our sample had a parent
with a graduate degree. About half (51%) of the adolescents in the full sample were male and
63% came from a two-parent household. The families who were dropped from the analyses were
quite similar to the families in our sample except that the excluded families were more likely to
be in households with married parents (t=4.06, p<.001) and had higher levels of income (t=2.08,
p<.05), and parents who engaged in more cultural socialization (t=21.89, p<.001).
Measures
Parent-adolescent communication. The moderator variable of interest in the present study,
frequency of parent-adolescent communication, was assessed using four statements that began
with the stem “My 8th grader talks to me about.” The primary caregiver reported how often the
adolescent talked with her/him about the adolescents friends, problems at school, classes, and
future career, using a 6-point Likert-type scale with the following response options: 1 (almost
never), 2 (less than once a month), 3 (1-3 times a month), 4 (about once a week), 5 (a few times a
week), and 6 (almost every day). A mean score was created (Cronbach’s alpha = .81) and then
dichotomized at the median. The families that had a mean score of 4 (once per week) or higher
were in the high communication group (n=262), whereas families who scored below 4 were in
the low communication group (n=242).
Family racial socialization. African American parents’ racial socialization was assessed using
two measures drawn from the primary caregiver’s responses when adolescents were in 8th grade
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to represent two common types of socialization in African American families (Hughes et al.,
2006).
Cultural socialization. This socialization measure was based on an index of 10 items that asked
parents to report on the importance and salience of race and culture in their family and personal
lives. In seven of the items, parents used a 4-pt Likert scale ranging from 1 (not at all) to 4 (very)
to indicate how true statements such as the following were: “How important is your racial
background to the daily life of your family,” and “People of your race have a culturally rich
heritage. Each of these items was recoded into a binary variable (0, 1) and given a 1 when
parents responded 3 (somewhat) or 4 (very). In the remaining three items, parents used a 5-pt
Likert scale ranging from 1 (almost never) to 5 (almost always) to report on the frequency of
activities that potentially accent race or African American culture. The following are examples of
some of the questions that were asked: “How often does the child study the traditions of or about
being his or her race,” and “How often do you participate in community activities with people of
your racial background.” Each of these items was recoded into a binary variable (0, 1) and given
a 1 when parents responded 4 (frequently) or 5 (almost always). All binary variables were added
together (maximum score = 10) so that higher values on this summative variable indicated higher
levels of cultural socialization.
Preparation for racial bias. The second socialization measure was based on an item that asked
parents to report on a 6-pt Likert scale ranging from 1 (almost never) to 6 (almost every day) the
frequency with which they talked about race discrimination with the adolescent. Higher values
indicate more racial bias preparation (M = 2.93, SD = 1.56).
Adolescent racial identity. Three constructs based on items created for the MADICS study were
used to measure aspects of adolescents’ racial identity in 11th grade.
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Perceived structural discrimination. Adolescents’ perception of structural discrimination was
based on a mean score of five items (Cronbach’s alpha = .70). On a 4-pt Likert scale ranging
from 1 (strongly disagree) to 4 (strongly agree), adolescents reported on their agreement with
two statements such as: “Because of my race, I have to work harder” and “Because of my race, I
have to do better to get ahead.” On a 5-pt Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5
(strongly agree), adolescents reported on their agreement with statements such as: “To get ahead,
I have to work harder than Whites, “Being Black won’t make it harder for my success”
(reverse-coded), and “Because I am Black, I probably won’t get ahead without school.” All five
items were standardized prior to creating the mean composite so that higher scores indicate more
perceived structural discrimination.
Negative public regard. Four items were used to assess adolescents’ perception of how others
view African Americans (Cronbach’s alpha = .56)
1
. On a 5-pt Likert scale ranging from 1
(strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree), adolescents reported on their agreement with
statements such as the following: “Others think that Black people are unworthy,” “Others think
Blacks are not as effective as other races.” A mean score was created so that higher scores
indicate the adolescent’s perception that others regard African Americans more unfavorably.
Success-oriented centrality. Six items were used to assess the extent to which feelings of success
were tied to adolescents’ identity as African Americans (Cronbach’s alpha =0.70). On a 5-pt
Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree), adolescents reported on
how strongly they agreed with statements such as the following: “It will help other Blacks if I am
successful” and “It is important for my family and community that I do well.” A mean score was
1
Although the reliability is moderately low, it is in alignment with the reliability reported in
existing literature (e.g., Cronbach’s α range = 0.55 - 0.61; Sellers et al., 1997; Seaton, Yip &
Sellers, 2009).
RACIAL SOCIALIZATION 16
created so that higher scores represent a stronger link between the importance of success and
African American identity.
Adolescent academic attitudes and perceptions. Due to the large amount of missing data on
adolescent grades and achievement in the 11th grade, we focused on adolescents’ attitudes about
school and perceptions of their academic competence during 11th grade as our outcomes, which
had more complete data.
Positive school attitude. Adolescents’ attitudes about school were assessed using a composite
variable comprised of 17 items drawn from the Michigan Study of Adolescent Life Transitions
(MSALT; Eccles et al., 1993; Cronbach’s alpha = .82) that asked adolescents to report on their
feelings about school. On a scale ranging from 1 (strongly agree) to 5 (strongly disagree),
adolescents reported on how strongly they agreed with statements, such as “Most of my classes
are boring.Other items asked adolescents to rate on a scale ranging from 1 (not an important
reason) to 7 (a very important reason) the importance of different motives for attending school,
such as “I go to school because I enjoy my classes. The scores were first standardized before
creating a mean score so that higher scores indicate more positive attitudes about school.
Perceived competence. Adolescents’ perception of their academic competence was assessed
using a composite variable comprised of 5 items from the MSALT. The items asked adolescents
to report on a scale ranging from 1 (almost never) to 5 (almost always) how strongly they agreed
with questions such as, “Are you good at figuring out plans for problem solving?They also
rated their ability on various school subjects on a scale ranging from 1 (not at all good) to 7 (very
good). The standardized composite variable demonstrated moderate reliability (Cronbach’s alpha
= .67). The higher scores signify greater perceived academic competence.
Socio-demographic characteristics. To control for the influence of potentially confounding
variables, a number of family and child characteristics were included in the model. A
RACIAL SOCIALIZATION 17
dichotomous variable represented the mothers’ marital status (1 = married) while an ordinal
variable (1 = less than high school, 2 = high school graduate, 3 = some college, 4 = college
graduate, 5 = graduate degree) represented the highest number of years of education completed
by either parent. Household income was based on the Census needs standard. To adjust the
skewed distribution, this variable was recoded into five quintiles (1 = $3-$2600, 2 = $2700-
$27000, 3 = $27500-$34500, 4 = $34900$44211, 5 = $45000$100000). Finally, a
dichotomous variable represented the child’s sex (1 = boy). All of these items were drawn from
Wave 3 of the MADICS data when adolescents were in 8th grade.
Analytic Strategy
Multiple-group path analyses were estimated using M-PLUS Version 6 to assess whether
the hypothesized relationships between African American parents’ racial socialization, various
aspects of adolescents’ racial identity, and in turn, adolescents’ academic attitudes and
perceptions differed for families with high and low levels of communication. To maximize the
full sample size and to avoid missing data bias, full information maximum likelihood (FIML)
was used during model estimation (Allison, 2003). Additionally, MLR estimators were used in
estimating the models because they are robust to non-normality of observations (Muthén &
Muthén, 19982012).
The overall fit of the hypothesized model to the observed data was determined using four
indices: the chi-square statistic (χ2), comparative fit index (CFI), the root mean square error of
approximation (RMSEA), and the standardized root mean square residual (SRMR). Convention
states that good model fit occurs when the χ2 statistic is non-significant, the CFI is greater than
.90 and when the RMSEA and SRMR values are below .06 with an upper-bound confidence
interval below .10 (Hu & Bentler, 1999).
Results
RACIAL SOCIALIZATION 18
The means, standard deviations, and correlations between variables from Mplus FIML
estimation are presented by subgroup in Tables 1 and 2. The intercorrelations give some initial
support to the hypothesis that families with low and high levels of communication differ in the
strength of relations between racial socialization and racial identity. Most of the correlations
between families’ racial socialization and adolescents’ racial identity were larger for families
with high levels of communication than families with low levels of communication. For
example, cultural socialization was positively and more strongly correlated with perceived
structural discrimination (rhigh= .24 vs rlow= .03) and success-oriented centrality (rhigh= .14 vs
rlow= .03) for families with high levels of communication in comparison to families with low
levels of communication. We also see some preliminary evidence that the strength of the
relations between ethnic identity and academic outcomes differ for families with high versus low
levels of communication in ways consistent with our hypotheses. Success-oriented centrality was
positively and more strongly correlated with adolescents’ positive school attitude (rhigh= .20 vs
rlow= .13) for families with high levels of communication. Negative public regard was negatively
and more strongly correlated with school attitudes among adolescents with low levels of
communication with their caregivers, compared to adolescents with high levels of
communication (rlow = -.23 vs. rhigh = -.02). Likewise, in low communication families, perceived
structural discrimination was negatively related to school attitudes, whereas there was virtually
no relation between these two variables in high communication families (rlow= -.18 vs. rhigh=
-.02).
Based on multiple fit indices, the initial hypothesized model did not fit the observed data
very well 2 (df) =124.18(30), p < 0.001, RMSEA = .11, SRMR = .05, CFI = .66). The
modification indices (MI) suggested adding error covariances between perceived structural
discrimination and negative regard and success-oriented centrality. In general, modification
RACIAL SOCIALIZATION 19
indices should only be used if there is a strong theoretical reason for adapting the model based on
the information provided by MI. Given that these indices represent aspects of racial identity and
thus should be correlated, these suggested modifications were added to the model. The resultant
model is an appropriate plausible model, and as the fit indices demonstrate, fit the observed data
well (χ2 (df) =27.79(26), p > 0.05, RMSEA = .02, SRMR = .03, CFI = .99). Finally, nested
models in which one model had all pathways constrained was compared to another model with
no constrained pathways (baseline model) to determine whether the hypothesized processes
differed for families with high and low levels of communication. The results from the Wald Chi-
square test of nested models was significant (χ2 (df) =40.82(26), p < 0.05), which indicates that
these relations as a whole differed for low and high communication groups. The results from
Wald Chi-square tests of specific pathways of interest indicate group differences in the pathway
from preparation for racial bias and negative public regard (χ2 (df) = 4.91(1), p < 0.05). The final
path models that incorporated the suggested modifications are displayed in Figures 1 and 2 with
standardized coefficients. The correlations between indices of adolescents’ racial identity were
significant, but are not shown in the figures. Similarly, error covariances among the exogenous
variables were estimated but are not shown in the figures. These results are provided in Table 3.
Consistent with our hypothesis, parents’ racial socialization practices did not predict any
aspects of adolescents’ racial identity in families with low levels of communication, but were
significant predictors of aspects of adolescents’ racial identity in families with high levels of
communication. Among families with high levels of communication, parents who engaged in
more cultural socialization had adolescents who perceived more structural discrimination (b =
.06, p ≤ .01) and scored higher on success-oriented centrality (b = .04, p ≤ .05). Similarly,
among families with high levels of communication, parents who engaged in more preparation for
racial bias had adolescents with greater negative public regard (b = .05, p ≤ .05).
RACIAL SOCIALIZATION 20
Turning to the association between adolescent racial identity and academic outcomes,
adolescents’ perceived structural discrimination was associated with lower perceived academic
competence (b= -.12, p ≤ .05) and less positive attitudes toward school (b =-.12, p ≤ .05) ) among
families with low levels of communication.
Adolescents’ negative public regard was associated with less positive attitudes toward school (b
=-.14, p ≤ .05) among families with low levels of communication, but was unrelated to any of
the academic attitudes among families with high levels of communication. Success-oriented
centrality was associated with more positive attitudes toward school (blow =.14, p ≤ .05; bhigh =
.17, p ≤ .01) and perceptions of higher academic competence (blow = .27, p ≤ .001; bhigh = .25, p
.001) for both high and low communication families.
Discussion
A substantial body of literature has examined the relationship between racial
socialization, adolescent racial identity, and adolescent outcomes. The majority of this work,
however, is based on cross-sectional data with either the adolescent or parent as the sole
informant, and importantly, rarely considers the intrafamilial social context in which these
processes occur. Thus, the present study bridges this gap in the literature by using longitudinal
data to investigate racial socialization in conjunction with family processes. Specifically, we
examined whether African American families’ level of communication moderates the extent to
which parents’ different racial socialization practices as reported by the parent in 8th grade
predict varying aspects of adolescents’ racial identity, and in turn, academic attitudes and
perceptions as reported by the adolescent in 11th grade. The study results indicate that, as a
whole, these processes differed by parent-adolescent communication levels, and thus, highlight
the importance of including family processes in future research when examining the influence of
family racial socialization practices on adolescent outcomes.
RACIAL SOCIALIZATION 21
The Moderating Influence of Parent-Adolescent Communication
The most prominent differences in the model between families with low and high levels
of communication existed between families’ racial socialization and adolescents’ racial identity.
Among families with low levels of communication, no aspect of adolescents’ racial identity was
predicted by families’ racial socialization practices. This finding corroborates prior research that
finds no links between parent reports of racial socialization and adolescent reports of their racial
identity (Phinney & Chavira, 1995). In contrast, among families with high levels of
communication, every aspect of adolescents’ racial identity was predicted by at least one type of
family racial socialization practice. Aligned with the idea that children are more likely to
internalize their parents’ messages and beliefs when there is mutual understanding of family
values, expectations, and rules, the moderating influence of family communication provides a
potential explanation for the inconsistences found in prior studies and gives credence to the idea
that when parent-adolescent communication levels are low there is a greater likelihood of a
disconnect between the messages conveyed by parents and adolescents’ acceptance of these
messages.
Associations between Family Racial Socialization and Adolescents’ Racial Identity
Among families with high levels of communication, higher levels of cultural socialization
in 8th grade predicted adolescents’ perception of greater structural discrimination and success-
oriented centrality three years later. These longitudinal associations support prior work indicating
that greater cultural socialization is related to a greater awareness of societal oppression among
adolescents (Stevenson, 1994), and a greater sense of closeness with other African Americans
among adults (Demo & Hughes, 1990). We also found that higher levels of preparation for racial
bias predicted higher levels of perceived negative public regard among families with high levels
of communication, which supports cross-sectional work demonstrating a link between
RACIAL SOCIALIZATION 22
preparation for bias and negative public regard among youth (Rivas-Drake, 2011; Rivas-Drake,
Hughes, & Way, 2009).
Among families with high levels of communication, the divergent associations between
cultural socialization and aspects of adolescents’ racial identity highlight the complexity inherent
to the process of transmitting messages about cultural heritage, cultural traditions, and racial
pride. On one hand, instilling a sense of pride in and value of African American culture and
heritage leads to greater success-oriented centrality, which in turn, is associated with better
academic attitudes and perceptions. Yet at the same time, instilling greater value of African
American culture and heritage brings to the forefront a greater awareness of structural
discrimination, which in turn, is associated with worse academic attitudes and perceptions. For
marginalized racial groups, such as African Americans, whose history is laden with systematic
inequities and discrimination, it is unsurprising that cultural socialization, and racial socialization
more generally, would relate to diverging facets of racial identity. As such, it is important to
understand under what conditions these divergent aspects of racial identity relate to adolescents
academic attitudes and perceptions.
Associations between Adolescents’ Racial Identity and Academic Attitudes and Perceptions
In addition to moderating the associations between racial socialization and racial identity,
family communication also moderated the relations between adolescents’ academic attitudes and
perceptions and two aspects of adolescents’ racial identity (i.e., perceived structural
discrimination and negative public regard). This pattern of results suggests that family
communication may be an important factor in mitigating processes that undermine positive
academic attitudes and perceptions.
Perceived structural discrimination and negative public regard. Although perceived
structural discrimination was linked to less optimal academic outcomes for both high and low
RACIAL SOCIALIZATION 23
communication families, this aspect of racial identity was a more salient predictor of negative
academic attitudes and perceptions for adolescents from families with low levels of
communication. These results are in accordance with studies indicating that perceptions of
higher racial barriers are associated with lower achievement among elementary-aged children
(Smith et al., 2003), and less adaptive behavioral outcomes among adolescents (Stevenson,
1997). The fact that perceived structural discrimination predicted more negative academic
attitudes and perceptions for adolescents from families with low levels of communication than
for adolescents from families with high levels of communication suggests that frequent parent-
adolescent communication may help attenuate negative processes that undermine achievement
and lead to negative academic attitudes and perceptions. In other words, when there is a high
frequency of communication between the parent and adolescent about topics important to the
adolescents’ daily life (e.g., school, friends), the parent is likely to have a deeper understanding
of the adolescents’ psychological state and thus have more opportunities to subvert any processes
leading to suboptimal academic attitudes and perceptions.
In a similar vein, negative public regard was associated with poorer attitudes toward
school, but only for adolescents from families with low levels of communication. Sellers,
Copeland-Linder, Martin, and Lewis (2006) speculate that adolescents with more negative public
regard may exhibit better outcomes because they likely experienced more racial discrimination,
and thus, developed more effective coping skills to deal with it. Although there is no evidence of
a positive association in the present study, the lack of association between negative public regard
and adolescents’ academic attitudes and perceptions among adolescents from families with high
levels of family communication may indicate that parents’ preparation for racial bias in these
families included more talk about coping strategies that helped negate the detrimental effects of
negative public regard on adolescents’ outcomes. This hypothesis needs to be tested further with
RACIAL SOCIALIZATION 24
data on the quality and content of conversations between parents and adolescents, particularly
around preparation for bias.
Success-oriented centrality. In contrast to the other aspects of racial identity examined in this
study, success-oriented centrality was the only aspect of adolescents’ racial identity that was
associated with positive academic attitudes and perceptions for adolescents in families with both
high and low levels of parent-adolescent communication. The prominent link between
adolescents’ psychological connectedness to the African American community and positive
academic attitudes and perceptions echoes extant work demonstrating an association between
higher levels of cultural pride and higher levels of achievement among children (Smith et al.,
2003) and adolescents (Oyserman et al., 2001). The recurring association between centrality and
positive academic attitudes and perceptions found across studies and age groups substantiates the
importance of fostering individuals’ sense of community as a means to strengthen students’
academic attitudes and perceptions.
Importantly, the fact that success-oriented centrality was associated with adolescents’
positive academic attitudes and perceptions regardless of whether families had high or low levels
of communication raises questions about other family processes that we may not have
investigated in our study. Moreover, there are other influences in the youth’s ecology outside the
family (e.g., teachers, mentors) that may be encouraging adolescents to view their success as tied
to their racial identity as an African American. Future research should examine the racial
socialization roles of individuals outside the family in conjunction with the role of the parents in
shaping adolescentsracial identity, and in turn, whether there are similar relations with
adolescents’ academic attitudes and perceptions.
Study Limitations
RACIAL SOCIALIZATION 25
The findings presented here should be considered in light of the study limitations. First,
we only examined the frequency of parent-child communication because we did not have the
data to examine the quality of communication. Our measure may tap the frequency of both
harmonious and conflictual parent-adolescent communication. Second, the communication
measure was based on parent report of how often their child talked to them about various topics
important in their life, but we cannot be certain who is prompting the communication. The
wording of these items may suggest that the child is initiating the conversation, thus, signaling a
positive and open relationship between the child and parent. On the other hand, it is also possible
that the child is talking to the parent about these topics in response to the parents’ questioning.
Given the difference in association between parent solicitation versus adolescent disclosure of
information and adolescent outcomes found in prior research (e.g., Kerr & Stattin, 2000), future
studies should examine the moderation of these associations with items that reflect the quality of
the communication and are explicit about who is initiating the communication to determine the
robustness of the results from the present study.
Third, we did not have data on the nature of how parents prepared youth for racial bias.
In the present study, preparation for racial bias was represented by one item that measured the
frequency with which parents discussed racial bias with their children. The content parents use to
prepare adolescents for racial bias is unknown. For example, it is unclear whether parents
promoted caution of other racial groups or promoted coping techniques for managing
discrimination, which are different aspects of preparation for bias that can have varying relations
with adolescents’ racial identity (Demo & Hughes, 1990). Future studies should extend this work
by investigating frequency in conjunction with content to understand how different aspects of
parents’ bias preparation relate to adolescents’ racial identity.
RACIAL SOCIALIZATION 26
Fourth, the negative public regard construct had relatively low reliability. Although our
measure’s reliability was comparable to the reliability of this construct in the work of Sellers and
colleagues (1997; 2009), the low reliability indicates that this construct is not measured well. It
may be the case that items used to create negative public regard in this study, similar to the items
used in Seller’s work, are too general with regard to who is the “public, which may have
lowered the measure’s reliability. The low reliability of our negative public regard measure could
have attenuated its relations with adolescents’ academic attitudes and perception. In Rivas-
Drake’s (2011) study of Latino youth, the reliability of public regard was much higher (e.g.,
Cronbach’s alpha = .89). However, this measure was restricted to youth’s perception of the
public regard of teachers and professors, a targeted group, which may have helped with the
reliability of their measure.
Finally, we did not have adolescent reports of family racial socialization. As a result, we
were unable to investigate whether parent and adolescent reports of racial socialization had the
same association with various aspects of adolescents’ racial identity seen in other studies based
on one reporter.
Conclusion
The findings from the present study extend the literature on racial socialization, racial
identity, and adolescent academic-related outcomes among African American youth in several
important ways. First, and most importantly, our findings indicate that the frequency of parent-
child communication moderated several of the hypothesized associations. These results
underscore that racial socialization and racial identity development do not occur in a vacuum, but
rather occur within the larger family context. This needs to be taken into consideration in future
research. Second, that the longitudinal relations between parents’ racial socialization practices
and adolescents’ racial identity were significant for only families with high levels of
RACIAL SOCIALIZATION 27
communication demonstrates that frequent family communication acts as an important conduit
for families to convey messages and beliefs to their children. The open communication lines
within the family enables parents to be more in tune with their adolescents’ attitudes and feelings
and in turn, affords opportunities for parents to rectify psychological processes that undermine
students’ academic success. Specifically, our findings suggest that within a communicative
familial context, when parent engage in cultural activities and treat race as a salient aspect of
family life, adolescents reported a stronger psychological connection to the African American
community and a stronger belief that success is integral to their identity. As such, the results
from the present study highlight the importance of African American parents adding cultural
socialization practices to their parenting toolbox as a means for promoting success-oriented
centrality.
RACIAL SOCIALIZATION 28
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Table 1
FIML Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations of Study Variables for Low Communication (n=242)
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
Adolescent Academic Attitudes and
Perceptions
1 Positive school attitude
-
2 Perceived competence
0.46
-
Adolescent Racial Identity
3 Perceived Structural Discrimination
-0.18
-0.09
-
4 Negative Public Regard
-0.23
-0.13
0.30
-
5 Success-oriented Centrality
0.13
0.26
0.22
-0.07
-
Family Racial Socialization
6 Cultural Socialization
0.06
0.06
0.03
-0.06
0.03
-
7 Preparation for Racial Bias
0.09
0.05
0.04
-0.10
0.04
0.17
-
Socio-demographic Characteristics
8 Married
-0.09
-0.08
0.14
0.07
-0.02
0.08
-0.04
-
9 Educational Attainment
-0.03
-0.09
-0.03
0.08
-0.15
0.10
0.02
-0.11
-
10 Income
-0.07
0.01
0.10
0.07
0.15
0.07
-0.08
0.17
0.19
-
11 Male child
-0.09
0.04
0.06
-0.12
0.06
-0.06
0.10
0.01
-0.12
0.07
-
M or %
-0.07
-0.02
0.02
2.97
3.75
6.13
2.52
64%
2.17
3.19
59%
SD
0.54
0.55
0.70
0.64
0.56
2.28
1.30
1.15
1.42
RACIAL SOCIALIZATION 36
Table 2
FIML Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations of Study Variables for High Communication (n=262)
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
Adolescent Academic Attitudes and
Perceptions
1 Positive school attitude
-
2 Perceived competence
0.45
-
Adolescent Racial Identity
3 Perceived Structural Discrimination
0.02
-0.09
-
4 Negative Public Regard
-0.02
0.03
0.37
-
5 Success-oriented Centrality
0.20
0.18
0.28
0.00
-
Family Racial Socialization
6 Cultural Socialization
0.09
0.04
0.24
0.06
0.14
-
7 Preparation for Racial Bias
0.12
-0.02
0.18
0.15
0.03
0.35
-
Socio-demographic Characteristics
8 Married
0.01
-0.05
0.03
-0.04
0.13
-0.00
-0.05
-
9 Educational Attainment
0.04
0.07
-0.03
-0.03
-0.08
-0.06
-0.02
-0.04
-
10 Income
-0. 08
-0.07
0.19
-0.02
-0.04
0.17
0.10
0.04
0.17
-
11 Male child
-0.10
0.06
0.02
-0.04
-0.04
-0.08
0.02
-0.04
0.07
0.07
-
M or %
0.06
0.04
-0.03
3.00
3.62
6.21
3.23
62%
2.18
2.86
44%
SD
0.48
0.62
0.70
0.62
0.59
2.33
1.67
1.19
1.35
RACIAL SOCIALIZATION 37
Table 3
Unstandardized and Standardized FIML Estimates and Selected Fit Indices from Multigroup Path Analyses between Low and High
Communication Groups
Low Communication
(n=242)
High Communication
(n=262)
Pathways
blow (SE)
βlow
bhigh (SE)
βhigh
Adolescent Racial Identity to Academic Attitudes and Perceptions
Perceived Structural Discrimination -> Attitude Regarding School
-0.12* (0.05)
-0.16
-0.03 (0.06)
-0.05
Negative Public Regard -> Attitude Regarding School
-0.14* (0.06)
-0.17
-0.01 (0.05)
-0.01
Success-oriented Centrality -> Attitude Regarding School
0.14* (0.06)
0.15
0.17** (0.06)
0.21
Perceived Structural Discrimination -> Perceived Competence
-0.12* (0.05)
-0.13
-0.17** (0.07)
-0.20
Negative Public Regard -> Perceived Competence
-0.06 (0.06)
-0.08
0.10 (0.07)
0.10
Success-oriented Centrality -> Perceived Competence
0.27*** (0.27)
0.28
0.25*** (0.07)
0.24
Parent Racial Socialization to Adolescent Racial Identity
Cultural Socialization -> Perceived Structural Discrimination
0.04 (0.06)
0.01
0.06** (0.02)
0.18
Preparation for Racial Bias -> Perceived Structural Discrimination
0.02 (0.04)
0.05
0.04 (0.03)
0.09
Cultural Socialization -> Negative Public Regard
-0.05 (0.06)
-0.07
0.01 (0.02)
0.02
Preparation for Racial Bias -> Negative Public Regard
-0.04 (0.03)
-0.07
0.05* (0.02)
0.14
Cultural Socialization -> Success-oriented Centrality
0.01 (0.05)
0.04
0.04* (0.02)
0.16
Preparation for Racial Bias -> Success-oriented Centrality
0.02 (0.03)
0.05
-0.00 (0.02)
-0.01
Socio-demographic Characteristics to Adolescent Racial Identity
Married -> Perceived Structural Discrimination
0.18* (0.09)
0.12
0.04 (0.09)
0.03
Education -> Perceived Structural Discrimination
-0.02 (0.04)
-0.03
-0.03 (0.04)
-0.05
Income -> Perceived Structural Discrimination
0.03 (0.03)
0.07
0.08* (0.03)
0.16
Boy -> Perceived Structural Discrimination
0.10 (0.09)
0.04
0.04 (0.08)
0.03
Married -> Negative Public Regard
0.11 (0.09)
0.08
-0.03 (0.08)
-0.03
Education -> Negative Public Regard
0.04 (0.04)
0.07
-0.01 (0.04)
-0.02
Income -> Negative Public Regard
0.02 (0.03)
0.04
-0.02 (0.03)
-0.04
Boy -> Negative Public Regard
-0.14 (0.08)
-0.12
0.02 (0.08)
0.02
Married -> Success-oriented Centrality
-0.08 (0.08)
-0.08
0.16* (0.08)
0.13
Education -> Success-oriented Centrality
-0.09** (0.04)
-0.19
-0.03 (0.03)
-0.05
Income -> Success-oriented Centrality
0.08* (0.03)
0.20
-0.03 (0.03)
-0.06
Boy -> Success-oriented Centrality
0.03 (0.08)
0.02
0.01 (0.08)
-0.01
Covariances
Perceived Structural Discrimination with Negative Public Regard
0.14*** (0.03)
0.32
0.15*** (0.03)
0.37
Perceived Structural Discrimination with Success-oriented Centrality
0.09** (0.03)
0.23
0.11*** (0.02)
0.27
Model Fit: CFI = 0.99, RMSEA = 0.02, χ2(df) = 27.79(26), p>.05, SRMR = 0.03
Note. CFI = Comparative Fit Index; RMSEA = Root Mean Square Error of Approximation, χ2 = Chi-Square, SRMR = Standardized
Root Mean Square Residual
*p<.05; **p<.01; ***p<.001
RACIAL SOCIALIZATION 38
Figure 1. Multi-group Standardized FIML Estimates: Low Communication (n = 242)
Note. Estimated error covariances and socio-demographic characteristics included as controls in
the model are not shown in the figure.
* p ≤ .05, ** p ≤ .01, *** p ≤ .001
RACIAL SOCIALIZATION 39
Figure 2. Multi-group Standardized FIML Estimates: High Communication (n=262)
Note. Estimated error covariances and socio-demographic characteristics included as controls in the
model but are not shown in the figure.
* p ≤ .05, ** p ≤ .01, *** p .001
... For Frabutt and colleagues (2002), it seems that youth are responsive to the racial socialization of parents who can effectively balance the amount of proactive messaging they provide to them by being knowledgeable about specific events occurring in their daily life and involving themselves in ways that promote conversations and a caring supportive relationship. Tang, McLoyd, and Hallman (2016) contended that without accounting for the relationship quality between parent and child, research inadvertently hinders their ability to understand how family dynamics might moderate their findings. They measured family dynamics via frequency of parent-adolescent communication. ...
... Their study results supported that between 8 th and 11 th grade, adolescent reported parental racial socialization was predictive of adolescent racial identity for families with high communication (above sample mean level of communication), but this relationship was not significant for families with low levels of communication (below sample mean). Using measures that assess the nature and quality of caregiver and child interactions could help resolve the empirical inconsistency between study informants and the predictive relationship of parental racial socialization practices on child outcomes (Tang et al., 2016). ...
Thesis
In a cross-sectional sample of 598 African American caregivers and adolescents, this dissertation investigates whether and how the racial socialization messages of Black caregivers change as their children transition from middle to high school. I used latent class analysis implemented by Mplus to identify racial socialization clusters at three different time points (i.e., seventh grade, eighth grade, and ninth grade). Racial socialization clusters were comprised of three types of racial socialization messages (i.e., Navigation Capital messages, Black Cultural Immersion, and Racial Barrier messages). Navigation Capital messages represent a new racial socialization category that aligns with Yosso’s (2005) navigation capital from her model of community cultural wealth, while Black Cultural Immersion and Racial Barrier socialization messages align with previously researched constructs (e.g., White-Johnson et al., 2010). For caregivers of adolescents in the seventh grade, I identified five clusters of caregiver-reported racial socialization patterns: High Multifaceted, Black Navigation Capital, Low Multifaceted, Egalitarian Navigation Capital, and Barrier Immersion. Caregivers with adolescents in the eighth grade and ninth grade had the same five clusters of racial socialization patterns: High Multifaceted, Black Navigation Capital, Low Multifaceted, Infrequent, and Moderate Multifaceted. I also used a series of analyses of variance (ANOVAs) in SPSS to conduct an examination of how adolescent gender, caregiver racial identity, family interracial contact, caregiver and adolescent reports of racial discrimination, and caregiver and adolescent reported quality of communication related to caregiver cluster membership. Findings indicate that racial centrality, experiences of racial discrimination, and quality of communication were predictive of caregiver racial socialization cluster membership, especially for caregivers with adolescents in the seventh and ninth grades. In the seventh and ninth grades, caregivers with the highest reports of racial centrality were members of the High Multifaceted cluster (i.e., above average score in Navigation Capital, BCI, and Racial Barrier messages). An important contribution of this dissertation is the exploration of how different types of racial discrimination experiences (i.e., Invisible/Outsider, Criminal, Harassment, Unintelligent, Other) could explain caregiver cluster membership. Racial discriminatory experiences of being treated like a criminal and harassed were particularly predictive of cluster membership. Caregivers in the seventh grade High Multifaceted cluster reported significantly more experiences of being treated like a criminal than caregivers in the seventh grade Egalitarian Navigation Capital cluster. In comparison to caregivers in the ninth grade Black Navigation Capital cluster, caregivers in the ninth grade High Multifaceted cluster also reported more experiences of being harassed, being treated as criminal, and being treated as if they were unintelligent. From a developmental perspective, my results suggest that a) caregivers move towards race salience racial socialization patterns (i.e., High Multifaceted Cluster) and away from patterns in which racial barrier messages are minimized (i.e., Black Navigation Capital Cluster) over time and b) substantial shifts in racial socialization patterns may happen before the transition to high school.
... 93,94 Perception of discrimination in students can demotivate them from striving academically due to feelings of lower self-perceived competence. 95 Nonetheless, the upside of acculturation and promoting ethnic-racial identity development is not lost on parents, particularly mothers of Black youth who racially socialize their children from a young age, many from as early as the fifth grade. 55,95 PROMISING APPROACHES TO FACILITATE THRIVING/PATHWAYS TO RECOVERY As the causes of racial and ethnic disparities in health are multifactorial, the solutions should be multifaceted. ...
... 95 Nonetheless, the upside of acculturation and promoting ethnic-racial identity development is not lost on parents, particularly mothers of Black youth who racially socialize their children from a young age, many from as early as the fifth grade. 55,95 PROMISING APPROACHES TO FACILITATE THRIVING/PATHWAYS TO RECOVERY As the causes of racial and ethnic disparities in health are multifactorial, the solutions should be multifaceted. Health care providers, therapists, and community interventionists may benefit from training that prepares them to effectively address racial trauma experienced by the youth and families they serve. ...
Article
Black, Indigenous, and other Youth of Color (BIPOC youth) experience racism from a young age. These experiences have both immediate and long-term impacts on their health and wellbeing. Systemic racism contributes to the inequitable distribution of health resources and other social determinants of health, creating barriers to accessing care. Substance use disorders and sexual/nonsexual risk behaviors have been linked to experiences of racism in BIPOC youth. The legacy of generational racial trauma can frame behaviors and attitudes in the present, undermining health and survival in this group. BIPOC youth also face difficulties navigating spheres characterized as white spaces. Ethnic-racial socialization may promote resilience and help with coping in the context of racial stress. While many professional health organizations have embraced dismantling racism, a shift in the narrative on racial values will be critical for preventing adversity and achieving health equity for BIPOC youth.
... A mixed-methods study demonstrated that from adolescents' perspective, one type of support to make them feel loved was when mothers exchanged dialogue, talked, and felt listened to youth (McNeely & Barber, 2010). A quantitative study that examined communication frequency found that at high frequency of communication, cultural socialization and preparation for bias were positively related to youths' success-oriented racial centrality (i.e., feelings of success are tied to racial identity), and in turn more positive academic attitudes (Tang et al., 2016). The study demonstrates that communication between mothers and youth is an important context for adolescents to receive and internalize racial socialization messages. ...
... Contrary to Darling and Steinberg's (1993) Integrative Model and previous research (Tang et al., 2016), we found that rather communication quality did not moderate the relationship between cultural pride messages and ethnic identity affirmation. Adolescents' perceptions of their communication quality with their mothers had a unique positive relationship to ethnic identity affirmation. ...
Article
The present study tested a path analytic model that addressed two questions regarding the connection between one aspect of racial socialization (cultural pride reinforcement), communication between mothers and their adolescent children, adolescent ethnic identity, and mental health. First, we tested whether quality of communication moderated the relationship between cultural pride reinforcement and ethnic identity affirmation and anxiety/depressive/withdrawn symptoms. Then, we examined whether cultural pride reinforcement and quality of communication with mothers were directly linked to ethnic identity affirmation and in turn lower anxiety/depressive symptoms and withdrawn behaviors. Our sample included 111 African American adolescents (58.2% female; ages 14–17) in the mid-Atlantic region. Results of a path analysis indicated that cultural pride reinforcement and quality of communication independently and uniquely related to internalizing symptoms through ethnic identity affirmation. Findings contribute to a novel understanding of how both cultural (cultural pride reinforcement) and universal (quality of communication) are important factors to foster African American adolescents’ healthy adjustment and sense of self.
... While research does not indicate the measures used in the current study are inappropriate for diverse samples, they may lack cultural relevance or fail to capture specific aspects of parenting in families of color. Racial socialization, for instance, is the process by which parents teach children about one's race within a society (Coard & Sellers, 2005) and is a salient aspect of parenting, particularly among Black families (Tang et al., 2016). Therefore, future studies should utilize measures that include and prioritize culturally relevant aspects of parenting, which could shed more light on protective factors utilized by parents of color. ...
Article
Exposure to community violence (ECV) poses a prevalent threat to the health and development of adolescents. Research indicates those who have more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are at higher risk for ECV, which further exacerbates risk of negative mental and physical health impacts. Additionally, those with more ACEs are more likely to exhibit conduct problems, which has also been linked to risk for ECV. Despite the prevalence and impact of ECV, there is limited longitudinal research on the risk factors that precede this exposure as well as family-level factors that may prevent it. The current study examined conduct problems as a potential mediator between ACEs and future indirect (i.e. witnessing) ECV in adolescents. Additionally, this study included caregiver factors, such as caregiver knowledge about their adolescent, caregiver involvement, and caregiver-adolescent relationship quality as potential protective moderators. Participants included (N = 1137) caregiver-adolescent dyads identified as at-risk for child maltreatment prior to child’s age four for inclusion in the Longitudinal Studies of Child Abuse and Neglect (LONGSCAN). Conduct problems at age 14 mediated the relationship between ACEs from ages 0-12 and indirect ECV at age 16 (standardized indirect effect = .03, p = .005). Caregiver knowledge moderated the indirect relationship (b = −.40, p = .030), and caregiver involvement moderated the direct relationship between ACEs and indirect ECV (b = −.03, p = .033). Findings expand our knowledge about the longitudinal pathways that increase risk of violence exposure over the course of adolescent development, as well as the protective benefits caregivers can offer to disrupt these pathways and reduce risk of future traumatization. Implications are discussed for interventions that aim to address and prevent trauma and adverse outcomes among youth exposed to child maltreatment, household dysfunction, and community violence.
... Participants were debriefed and compensated $20. Martin et al., 2010) was administered to assess two of the four dimensions proposed by the MMRI (i.e., centrality, regard). These dimensions were included as they are more stable than other dimensions (e.g., salience) that are situational and context-dependent (i.e., likely to be influenced by experimental manipulation; Sellers et al., 1997Sellers et al., , 1998Tang et al., 2016) and empirically supported predictors of racial identity outcomes. Instructions asked participants to indicate the degree to which they identified with 20 statements. ...
Article
Full-text available
Little is known about how vicarious police violence, or instances of police violence observed but not directly experienced, impacts health among Black individuals. Using a lab-based paradigm in a sample of young adults (N = 101), this study examined: a) psychophysiological reactivity to instances of vicarious police violence, particularly the assault and shooting of Black individuals; b) affective reactivity to instances of vicarious police violence; and c) how racial identity, one important moderator, influences psychophysiological and affective responses to vicarious police violence. Using electrocardiography and impedance cardiography, participants' cardiac sympathetic and parasympathetic physiological responses were continuously monitored. Three sets of high-quality color photographs (neutral, non-violent distress, violence) were viewed on a computer. Participants rated their affect after each set using the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule. Following this task, racial identity was assessed using the Multidimensional Inventory of Black Identity-Short Form. Findings indicated that vicarious police violence was associated with greater sympathetic reactivity and negative affect relative to the neutral and non-violent distress conditions. Additionally, higher levels of racial centrality exacerbated the association between vicarious police violence and negative affect. Findings suggest that Black individuals may wish to limit their consumption of media depicting the assault and shooting of other Black individuals, with the caveat that the best solution is ultimately the cessation of police violence.
... Per RECAST, increasing parental confidence and competence over racial socialization can lead to lasting positive behavioral health outcomes for Black adolescents. Given that adolescence is a critical period for identity formation, the process of affirming socialization can strengthen an adolescent's racial identity and improve overall academic outcomes (Tang et al., 2016). This study provides preliminary evidence that it may be possible for parents to increase their confidence over time. ...
Article
Black youth overwhelmingly experience racial discrimination (RD). Racial socialization (RS), or racial communication between families, mitigates RD stress by expanding youth coping strategies. Although most Black parents currently discuss racial content with their children, less is known about this RS quality. The burgeoning construct of RS competency, or the skills, confidence, and stress of RS transmission, explores these emotion-focused approaches. Drawing on the racial encounter coping appraisal and socialization theory (RECAST), the current study seeks to depict RS competency through qualitative methods. Through deductive analysis, we examined in-depth interviews from nine parents of 10- to 14-year-olds enrolled in a RS intervention with familial conversations on RD in an urban mid-Atlantic city. Overall, findings support what has been found in quantitative studies of RS competency, particularly that subfactors are related yet unique, parent’s prior experiences impact current practices, and parental concerns for children drive practices and competency. This study also unearthed findings of processes occurring in light of a contentious context for Black adolescents. To our knowledge, this is the first study to qualitatively investigate these emotional and cognitive processes inherent in RS competency, which has future implications for family interventions to disrupt the psychological impact racism exacts on Black adolescents and families.
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Despite overwhelming documentation of disproportionate arrest, prosecution, conviction, and incarceration of Black Americans and the many psychological tools available to assess racism and implicit bias, anti-racist jury selection remains an understudied area of research. An evidence- based, anti-racist jury selection process is an urgent need, particularly due to historical and ongoing racial bias within this essential element of our judicial system.
Article
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The special issue brings together scholarship that expands our understanding of the adverse effects of interpersonal, online, and vicarious racial discrimination on Black adolescents’ psychosocial well‐being and sociocultural factors (e.g., racial socialization and positive racial identity) that mitigate these effects. It also focuses attention on ways that adolescents’ behavior and characteristics shape racial socialization. Some of the critical tasks that lie ahead include elevating a developmental perspective, documenting developmental pathways, directly assessing proximal mediating processes, giving more attention to the robustness and replicability of findings, and expanding levels of analyses and outcomes to include both macro‐structural indicators and indicators of physiological and neuropsychological functioning.
Article
Ethnicity and race are critical in how children and youth experience, negotiate, and navigate development. A robust literature has illustrated that ethnic-racial socialization (ERS) in particular plays an important role in how children develop an understanding of ethnicity and race. The majority of research has typically focused on parents as agents of socialization and ERS during adolescence. In addition, most studies use survey approaches and focus on US-based populations. We highlight conceptual, theoretical, and empirical work that seeks to push forward knowledge about the myriad ways in which individuals, interactions, and settings communicate messages to youth about ethnicity and race. Here we provide a brief overview of the literature on ERS, followed by a set of core commitments that guided our solicitation and selection of articles for this special issue. The articles represent a range of theoretical frameworks and methodologies; cover ERS of children across the developmental spectrum; examine children from multiple ethnic-racial groups; elaborate issues related to intersectionality and co-constructed identities; and consider socialization of ethnicity-race as it occurs across multiple settings, inclusive of families. We conclude with a description of the articles included in this special issue and how they map onto our core commitments. © 2021 The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues
Article
This article focuses on the need identified by African Canadian students for a “racial oasis” – a physical space designed to increase their exposure to positive racial identities - which can support them in developing a community of support among peers who understand the effects of anti-Black racism, and to identify strategies for coping with racism. Research participants were drawn from a program developed to support African Canadian students navigate post-secondary schooling in Ontario, Canada. Participants indicated that safe spaces were central to developing a positive racial identity, and that these spaces provided opportunities for them to critically reframe their racialized identity. Participants also suggested that the development of a positive racial identity supports degree perseverance and educational pursuits. This research indicates that institutions must be intentional in providing the resources necessary to foster positive racial identity socailization amongst Black students and underscores the benefits of providing “racial oases” in schools, community organizations, and workplaces.
Article
Full-text available
Although most individuals pass through adolescence without excessively high levels of "storm and stress," many do experience difficulty. Why? Is there something unique about this developmental period that puts adolescents at risk for difficulty? This article focuses on this question and advances the hypothesis that some of the negative psychological changes associated with adolescent development result from a mismatch between the needs of developing adolescents and the opportunities afforded them by their social environments. It provides examples of how this mismatch develops in the school and in the home and how it is linked to negative age-related changes in early adolescents' motivation and self-perceptions. Ways in which more developmentally appropriate social environments can be created are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Full-text available
How are racial-ethnic identity and acculturation processes linked, and when do they have positive consequences for academic achievement and assimilation trajectory? To address these issues this study integrates two frameworks—segmented assimilation (Portes and Rumbaut 2001) and racial-ethnic self-schema (Oyserman et al. 2003)—that focus on how immigrant and minority youth identify with their in-group and American society at large and link these patterns of racial-ethnic identity with academic outcomes. Segmented assimilation describes how context influences identity and subsequently assimilation trajectory, while racial-ethnic self-schema theory relates differences in identity content to academic achievement. Integration of the two frameworks provides a more robust model of identity influences across contexts. Predicted relationships within inhospitable contexts were tested using structural equation models connecting three measures of acculturation—immigrant generation in the United States, Spanish-use, and identity—to academic achievement of Hispanic youth (n = 185) living in low-income, urban neighborhoods. “Thick” in-group focused identities, and “thin” aschematic identities were associated with lower achievement, while bridging identities linking connection to one's in-group with overcoming obstacles in broader society were associated with positive outcomes. Endorsement of aschematic identities increased with generation in the U.S., suggesting that downward mobility is facilitated by “thin” rather than “thick” identities. Content of identity was the most important predictor of achievement.
Article
Recently, social scientists have become increasingly interested in the nature of communications from parents to children regarding ethnicity and race. Termed racial socialization, race‐related messages to children may have important consequences for children's identity development and well‐being. This study examined the frequency and correlates of two dimensions of racial socialization—messages about ethnic pride, history, and heritage (Cultural Socialization) and messages about discrimination and racial bias (Preparation for Bias)—among 273 urban African American, Puerto Rican, and Dominican parents. Parents reported more frequent Cultural Socialization than Preparation for Bias. There were no significant ethnic group differences in the frequency of Cultural Socialization. However, African American parents reported more frequent Preparation for Bias than did Dominican parents who, in turn, reported more frequent messages of this sort than did Puerto Rican parents. Ethnic identity was a stronger predictor of Cultural Socialization among Puerto Rican and Dominican parents than among their African American counterparts. In contrast, perceived discrimination experiences was a stronger predictor of Preparation for Bias among African American and Dominican parents than among Puerto Rican parents. Finally, race‐related phenomenon accounted for more variance in both Cultural Socialization and Preparation for Bias among parents reporting on their behaviors with children 10–17 years old as compared to parents reporting on their behaviors with children 6–9 years old.
Book
Filling a critical void in the literature, Race, Racism, and the Developing Child provides an important source of information for researchers, psychologists, and students on the recent advances in the unique developmental and social features of race and racism in children's lives. Thorough and accessible, this timely reference draws on an international collection of experts and scholars representing the breadth of perspectives, theoretical traditions, and empirical approaches in this field.
Chapter
IntroductionWhat We Know About Ethnic SocializationOverview of the StudyThe Salience of Ethnic-Racial Socialization to ParentsRetention of Cultural ValuesResistance Against DiscriminationPreparation for Bias:EgalitarianismPromotion of MistrustSummary and Conclusion
Article
The authors report the development of a racial/ethnicity identity (REI) measure for African American adolescents. The Adolescent Survey of Black Life (ASBL) was administered to two samples, comprising 286 and 60 respondents, respectively. Three factors were identified: pro-Black (7 items), anti-White (4 items), and racism awareness (5 items). Scores on the pro-Black factor were significantly related to anti-drug attitudes, and in Sample 1, they were also significantly related to positive school attitudes and behaviors, problem behaviors (negatively), and self-esteem. Anti-White scores in Sample 2 were significantly related, in the negative direction, with positive school attitudes and behaviors and prosocial activities, as well as positively related with drug use. Recognition of racism was significantly associated with positive school attitudes, problem behaviors, and drug use in Sample 1. Findings should be tempered by the cross-sectional design, small sample size, and the inconsistency and magnitude of the observed correlations. Initial psychometric data suggest construct validity of the ASBL, and further development of the instrument may be warranted.