The academic identity development of African American girls

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White, Aisha
Major Professor
Brenda J. Lohman
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Human Development and Family Studies

The Department of Human Development and Family Studies focuses on the interactions among individuals, families, and their resources and environments throughout their lifespans. It consists of three majors: Child, Adult, and Family Services (preparing students to work for agencies serving children, youth, adults, and families); Family Finance, Housing, and Policy (preparing students for work as financial counselors, insurance agents, loan-officers, lobbyists, policy experts, etc); and Early Childhood Education (preparing students to teach and work with young children and their families).


The Department of Human Development and Family Studies was formed in 1991 from the merger of the Department of Family Environment and the Department of Child Development.

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  • College of Human Sciences (parent college)
  • Department of Child Development (predecessor)
  • Department of Family Environment (predecessor)

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This research examined the academic identity development of 11 African-American high school girls. Academic identity is considered a lesser known yet important factor in the school achievement of African-American students. However, research exploring the psychosocial process of developing an academic “self” among African-American girls is almost non-existent. Traditional research has focused mainly on the academic deficits of African-American girls in school. Additionally, identity research has traditionally examined African-American girls’ experiences by racial or gender-distinct categories. However, this study explored the processes of the academic identity development of a sample of African-American girls using Positive Youth Development as a strengths-based approach with attention to the intersectional experiences of race, gender, and class that contributed to their academic identity development.

By providing these girls the opportunity to voice their lived experiences, this study produced knowledge that elucidates the positive adolescent developmental processes of African-American girls and their high school education. The results indicated these common themes: (a) Stereotypes in School, (b) The Weight of Stereotypes, (c) The Old Me Phase, (d) Making Transitions, (e) The Real Me, (f) I Am Strong, (g) Representing African-American Girls in School, and (h) Perceptions of Academic Identity. The themes from this research study represented girls who are often deemed invisible and unheard in education. Resoundingly, the girls shared their lived experiences of developing their academic identity in a schooling context that normalized negative stereotypes of African-American girls. The girls in this study developed academic identities as an interactive process involving meaning making of their school experiences and a conscientious quest to represent their true self. The results of this study suggest that researchers and youth-serving professionals focus greater attention on the role of the school context and social norms as influences on the academic identity development of African-American girls.

Thu Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2015