Level of Cultural Mistrust as a Function of Educational and Occupational Expectations among Black Students

Article excerpt

An area of ongoing concern among minority educators and other professionals is the seeming lack of motivation among black students, especially males, to excel academically and pursue prestigious occupations. In general, black adolescents have higher dropout rates and achieve lower grades than do white students (Johnson, 1974; Berry & Asamen, 1989).

Although there has been an increase in the number of blacks reaching higher socioeconomic levels in recent decades, several authors have pointed out that the actual percentage has declined. Thus, research continues to indicate that blacks are disproportionately represented in occupations such as sanitation workers, waiters or waitresses, housekeepers, and domestics. Few blacks tend to be employed as chemists, judges, and officers of large corporations.

Several variables have been found to correlate with the academic performance and occupational level of blacks. These include low achievement motivation (Taylor, 1989), low self-esteem (Terrell, Terrell, & Taylor, 1980), and poor role models (Baughman, 1971).

Terrell and Terrell (1981) have suggested that there is a tendency among blacks to mistrust whites--that black children and adolescents may not perform up to their potential on standardized mental ability and achievement tests because they do not trust whites to evaluate them fairly. It is also possible that, for the same reason, they do not expect to be able to enter more prestigious occupations or attain higher educational levels.

The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between educational and occupational expectations of black adolescents and the extent to which they mistrust whites. Based upon previous research, it was hypothesized that black students with low educational and occupational expectations would have a higher level of mistrust than students with higher expectations.

METHOD

Participants

One hundred thirty-two black students attending a predominantly black public school participated (60 males and 72 females). All were in the seventh through ninth grades and ranged in age from 12 to 15 years.

Measures

All participants were administered the Cultural Mistrust Inventory (CMI; Terrell & Terrell, 1981). The CMI consists of 48 items which are rated on a seven-point Likert-type scale, ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree. This inventory has demonstrated a low correlation with a social desirability test, as well as a two-week test-retest reliability of .82. Between-item and total score correlations on the CMI range from .34 to .47.

This instrument has been used to measure the mistrust level of black clients. It was found that a higher level of mistrust, as measured by the CMI, correlated with a higher rate of premature termination among highly mistrustful black clients who were seen by white counselors (Terrell & Terrell, 1984).

Participants were also administered a modified version of the Two-Factor Index of Social Position (Hollingshead & Redlich, 1958). This inventory is used for classifying occupational and educational levels. Category 1 of the Occupation scale includes upper level executives of large companies and major professionals; Category 2 refers to business managers, proprietors of medium-sized businesses, and lesser professionals; Category 3 refers to administrative personnel, owners of small businesses, and minor professionals; Category 4 applies to clerical and sales workers and technicians; Category 5 applies to skilled manual employees; Category 6 refers to machine operators and semiskilled employees; and Category 7 applies to unskilled workers. Category 1 of the Education scale represents those with graduate level training; Category 2 applies to those with a college or university degree; Category 3 includes those with partial college training; Category 4 refers to those who graduated from high school; Category 5 applies to those with partial high school education; Category 6 includes those who completed school through the 7th grade; and Category 7 applies to those who have not completed the 7th grade. …