Self-Efficacy, Motivation, and Academic Adjustment among African American Women Attending Institutions of Higher Education

Article excerpt

This study examined the relationships among self-efficacy beliefs, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and academic adjustment among 111 African American women in college. Results revealed that self-efficacy beliefs predicted Motivation to Know, Externally Regulated motivation, Identified motivation, and academic adjustment. Furthermore, Motivation to Know partially mediated the relationship between self-efficacy beliefs and academic adjustment. Contrary to prediction, extrinsic motivation did not mediate the relationship between self-efficacy beliefs and academic adjustment. The implications of these findings for faculty, higher education administrators, and mental health counselors are provided, as well directions for future research.

Education trends indicated that at the turn of the twenty-first century, 44% of African Americans attended college, while 31% attended college twenty years ago (NCES, 2004; U.S. Census Bureau, 2004). To continue this positive, upward trend among African Americans, particularly African American women, researchers must use empirical findings to identify factors that contribute to persistence toward academic attainment in higher education (Allen, Epps, & Haniff, 1991). Although researchers have identified a few significant psychological, familial/contextual, and interpersonal factors that facilitate academic adjustment among African Americans (e.g., Constantine & Sue, 2006), due to a long-standing focus on educational deficits, the literature is lacking sufficient empirically based evidence reflecting positive factors mat predict persistence and academic achievement among African American students, specifically, African American women. Historically, the depiction of African Americans has been presented as educationally disadvantaged or deprived, because their level of academic performance has lagged behind their Caucasian American counterparts (Gay, 2000; Ford, 1996). With little findings that are genderspecific to account for within group factors, studies have traditionally focused on the shortcomings of African American college students as a means of explaining these educational disparities (Jencks & Phillips, 1998), with research shifting to reflect a focus on factors that promote academic success among this population (Ladson-Billings, 1994).


Studies support the notion that women in general, often face institutional, political, and cultural barriers (e.g. sexism, prejudice, and the "glass ceiling" effect) that can impede advancement and success at institutions of higher education (Gilligan, 1993; Hyde & Kling, 2001; Lemons, 2003). These barriers are compounded for African American women because they encounter additional obstacles such racism and discrimination, beyond the barriers met by Caucasian American women or men (Cotter, Hermsen, Ovadia, & Vanneman, 2001; Johnson, 2006; Moore & Jones, 2001). The "concrete ceiling" effect is distinct from me "glass ceiling" effect in that, unlike glass that can be seen through and shattered, concrete is more difficult to infiltrate and cannot be pierced without extreme pressure. Caucasian American women face sexism, prejudice, and discrimination, but do not have the added obstruction of racism. While African American men experience racism and discrimination, sexism is not intertwined with these hurdles. It is the combination of these factors that is unique to African American women, which results in the cumulative or pooled outcome of these barriers identified as the "concrete ceiling" effect (Johnson, 2006; Moore & Jones, 2001; Tomkiewicz, Bass, & Vaicys, 2003).

For example, African American women tend to encounter higher incidences of negative, racebased stereotypes, more frequent questioning of their credibility, knowledge, and authority, the socio-cultural expectation to advance the African American male while sacrificing personal achievement and advancement, and a lack of institutional support (Benjamin, 1997; Higginbotham, 2001). …