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The Influence of Ethnic Discrimination and Ethnic Identification on African American adolescents' School and Socioemotional Adjustment


  • This paper is based on Carol Wong's doctoral dissertation submitted to the Combined Program in Education and Psychology at the University of Michigan. Preparation of this manuscript was supported by a grant from the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Successful Adolescent Development Among Youth in High-Risk Settings awarded to Jacquelynne S. Eccles, a NICHD grant awarded to J. S. Eccles and A. Sameroff, and a NICHD grant awarded to C. A. Wong. The first author also received support from the Stanford Center on Adolescence.

  • We would like to thank the following people for their assistance: Todd Bartko, Elaine Belansky, Nick Butler, Diane Early, Kari Fraser, Katherine Jodl, Ariel Kalil, Linda Kuhn, Sarah Lord, Oksana Malanchuk, Karen McCarthy, Alice Michaels, Leslie Morrison, Stephen Peck, Dairia Ray, Robert Roeser, Kate Rosenblum, Sherri Steele, Erika Taylor, Cindy Winston. In addition, we would like to thank the reviewers for their helpful suggestions.

concerning this article should be addressed to Jacquelynne S. Eccles, IRWG/ University of Michigan, 204 S. State Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109. Tel.: 734-763-3552; Fax: 734-936-7370. E-mail:


Abstract Do experiences with racial discrimination at school predict changes in African American adolescents' academic and psy-chological functioning? Does African American ethnic identity buffer these relations? This paper addresses these two questions using two waves of data from a longitudinal study of an economically diverse sample of African American adolescents living in and near a major East Coast metropolis. The data were collected at the beginning of the 7th grade and after the completion of the 8th grade. As expected, experiences of racial discrimination at school from one's teachers and peers predicts declines in grades, academic ability self-concepts, academic task values, mental health (increases in depression and anger, decreases in self-esteem and psychological resiliency), and increases in the proportion of one's friends who are not interested in school and who have problem behaviors. A strong, positive connection to one's ethnic group (our measure of ethnic identity) reduced the magnitude of the association of racial discrimination experiences with declines in academic self-concepts, school achievement, and perception of friends' positive characteristics, as well as the association of the racial discrimination experiences with increases in problem behaviors.