Theories of African American Personality: Classification, Basic Constructs and Empirical Predictions/assessment

Article excerpt

I. Introduction

Perhaps no other area of African/Black Psychology has such a legacy of controversy and strident intellectual debate than the area of Theories of African American (AA) personality (Belgrave & Allison, 2006; Cross, 1991; Kambon, 1992, 1998, 2006; Thomas & Sillen, 1972; Wilcox, 1971). This has not only been because of the legacy of the notorious contentiousness of the literature on AA intelligence, but also the subsequent literature on AA self-concept/racial identity and self-esteem, as well as the focus on AA motivation (i.e., achievement motivation) and antisocial behaviors such as drug abuse, delinquency, violence and criminality (Belgrave & Allison, 2006; Cross, 1991; Jones, 1972, 1980, 1991, 2004; Kambon, 1992, 1998; Pettigrew, 1964; Wilson, 1993). Each of these areas of the psychological study of AA personality has brought to the table their own set of controversial theoretical models, methodologies, data bases, analyses and conclusions. Through the years and as a result of the accumulation of a relatively large amount of research data and theoretical constructs, a distinct area of study called AA Personality has emerged within the African-centered psychological literature (Baldwin, 1976; Kambon, 1992, 1998) that commands serious consideration in any social policies respectful of cultural diversity that focus on truly improving the lives of all of the population. Thus, the growing body of psychological literature focused on African American personality will be discussed in this article in terms of the following considerations: (1) Classification of Basic Theoretical Paradigms, (2) Core Constructs and Empirical Predictions and Assessments, and (3) Future Directions of this important area of focus in African-Centered Psychology.

II. Classification of Theories of African American Personality: Basic Theoretical Paradigms

What then have emerged as the basic theoretical paradigms in this area of study and knowledge? Azibo (1990) has used such classifications as Positivists versus Negativist-Pejorativists to categorize these paradigms, whereas Kambon (1992, 1998) has proposed the categories of Africentric versus Non-Africentric as more appropriate to capture the distinguishing features of these paradigms. Kambon's (1992, 1998) work has been the primary guide in the development of classification schemes relevant to this area.

More similar to Kambon, but incorporating many features from Azibo's scheme as well, we propose that three distinct approaches or paradigms seem to have emerged and have come to characterize contemporary work in this area. They might best be designated as (1) Eurocentric Models, (2) Transitional Africentric Models, and (3) Africentric Models. This schematic is summarized in Table 1.

A. Eurocentric and Pseudo-Africentric Models

Following Kambon's (1992, 1998) earlier scheme, theories whose racial-ethnic and philosophical orientation is of European/European-American descent and thus asserts the European Worldview (EWV)-cultural reality are

classified as "Pure Eurocentric" because of its Caucasian authorship and exclusive emphasis on the EWV as the conceptual framework (i.e., the absence of the African Worldview). And in a related vein, we define the Pseudo-Africentric Models as those theories whose ethnic--philosophical orientation is of AA descent, yet asserts the European Worldview-cultural reality as the conceptual framework of analysis (Kambon, 1992, 1998).

In the case of the Pure Eurocentric Approach, it, of course, has represented one of the oldest traditions in Eurocentric social sciences concerned with such theoretical formulations of AA personality (Kambon, 2006). These theories therefore are distinguished philosophically and ideologically from other approaches by their imposition of the European Worldview (being their natural cultural orientation) as the appropriate conceptual framework for explaining AA personality or some important aspects of it. …