A Research Brief: A Novel Characteristic of Role Model Choice by Black Male College Students

By Bennett, B. J.; Davis, R. et al. | Negro Educational Review, April-July 2004 | Go to article overview

A Research Brief: A Novel Characteristic of Role Model Choice by Black Male College Students


Bennett, B. J., Davis, R., Harris, A., Brown, K., et al., Negro Educational Review


We investigated social self-concept defined as all of one's thoughts and feelings about one's self in relation to others and others' views of the self (Potkay & Allen, 1986). For logistical reasons, our study made no attempt at randomization but was conducted with a convenience sample of 113 black male college students attending a historically black southern college. The age of subjects ranged from 18 to 29 years of age. Mean age of our sample was 20 years "1.27 years standard deviation with a sample size of 109 since four subjects failed to report their age. Each subject received a one-page survey to record age and attractiveness of self based upon a three-interval scale, very attractive, attractive, or not very attractive. Males also rated the most attractive of three pictures of black females-one light-skinned female, one medium-skinned female, and one dark-skinned female. The order of presentation of the female pictures was determined randomly, and all of the authors agreed on the skin color assignment of each picture.

Yancey et al. (2002) documented the importance of role models for young adults, including African Americans and other minorities. Because of these findings, each of our subjects recorded on his survey instrument whether or not he had a role model and, if relevant, the identity of his role model. With these questions, we hoped to identify possible relationships between presence or absence of role models and factors related to social selfconcept such as perceived attractiveness of self and a member of the opposite sex. Finally, subjects' skin color was rated by two of the present authors as light-skinned, medium-skinned, or dark-skinned (see Jones et al., 2003); thus, inter-rater variability is a potential source of error in the present study. Dark-skinned males were over-represented and light-skinned males were under-represented in the present sample, a distribution controlled for where statistical tests are reported below. The purpose of the present research brief is to report a novel characteristic of role model choice that may be unreported in the literature for black males and to assess this finding in relation to perceived attractiveness of self and a member of the opposite sex.

In this study, 26 subjects, 23% of the sample, reported that they had no role model. Fifty subjects, 44%, reported that their role model was an individual known personally to him, usually a parent, sibling, or grandparent. Twenty-one subjects, 19%, chose a role model not known personally, such as an athletic or entertainment figure, and 13 subjects, 12%, chose themselves as their own role model. The proportion of males choosing themselves as their own role model was significantly less than the proportion of males having no role model, having a personal role model, or having a figure as a role model as shown by a Chi Square test of proportions where P2= 27.67, df= 3, p<.001. Three subjects, 3%, failed to record the presence or absence of a role model; thus, N= 110 for these comparisons. Subjects choosing themselves as their own role model were proportionately less likely to be light skinned males compared to males with no role models or males having personal role models or figures as role models. This finding was demonstrated by a Chi Square test of proportions where P2= 6.56, df= 2, p<.05, N= 113. If our sample is a representative one, then, these results are unlikely to have occurred by chance alone.

A previous report showed a weak significant trend for males to favor females of their own skin color (Jones et al., 2003). Males choosing themselves as their own role model, however, were significantly less likely to rate dark-skinned females as "very attractive" relative to the proportion of males choosing dark-skinned females as "very attractive" in the sample as a whole. This finding was demonstrated by a Chi Square test where P2= 7.53, df= 2, p<.05. We speculate that this finding may indicate that these predominantly dark-skinned males choosing themselves as a role model may be overcompensating for a trait, dark skin color, perceived as less than ideal by others. …

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