Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Academically Successful African American Male Urban High School Students' Experiences of Mattering to Others at School

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Academically Successful African American Male Urban High School Students' Experiences of Mattering to Others at School

Article excerpt

Mattering to others has been shown to be a key construct of mental health and wellness. Emerging research links interpersonal mattering and school climate. In this study, the authors use transcendental phenomenology to explore how interpersonal mattering impacts the academic achievement of urban African American males who are academically successful in high school. Implications for the integration of this new information in school counseling are discussed.


Mattering to others in our lives is the experience of moving through life being noticed by and feeling special to others who also matter to us. As far back as the 19th century, William James (1890) purported that one of the worst injustices in this world would be to live life being unnoticed by others. T. S. Eliot suggested that being important to others, and making a difference in others' lives, was actually one of the greatest purposes of life (1934). Mattering is thought to be a powerful, fundamental, and pervasive human need based on strong biological and psychological processes (Deci & Ryan, 2000; Patrick, Knee, Canevello, & Lonsbary, 2007). The importance of mattering to others likely can be placed only behind safety needs and basic physiological needs (Maslow, 1968).

Individuals who perceive that they are noticed by,, and cared for by others experience mattering in their relationships (Rosenberg, 1985; Rosenberg & McCullough, 1981). Recently, mattering has been recognized as the essential need that all individuals have to feel significant and important to other people in their lives (Dixon Rayle, 2005, 2006; Elliott, Colangelo, & Gelles, 2005; Elliott, Kao, & Grant, 2004; Rosenberg, 1985; Schlossberg, 1989). Further, mattering is considered to be a psychosocial experience of feeling significant to others, through which individuals perceive their relevance in relation to specific others such as family members, friends, colleagues, and others (Mak & Marshal, 2004; Marshall, 2001; Rosenberg, 1985; Schieman & Taylor, 2001).

Although first conceptualized in the 1980s as a component of individuals' self-concepts (Rosenberg & McCullough, 1981), interpersonal mattering was not a regular focus of research during the 1990s. Only since 2001 has mattering to others reemerged as an important psychosocial construct that has been studied with younger and older adolescents, college students, adults, older adults, children and their fathers, couples, corporation employees, medical residents, military cadets, and school counselors (Connolly & Myers, 2002; Dixon, Scheideggar, & McWhirter, 2009; Dixon Rayle, 2005, 2006; Dixon Rayle & Chung, 2007; Elliott et al., 2004; Elliott et al., 2005; Mak & Marshal, 2004; Marshall, 2001; Myers & Bechtal, 2004; Powers, Myers, Tingle, & Powers, 2004; Schieman & Taylor, 2001; Taylor & Turner, 2001). Recent research regarding perceptions of interpersonal mattering to others illustrates that it is related to higher self-esteem and social support, lower depression and academic stress, and greater psychosocial well-being and wellness; these findings were similar among diverse racial and ethnic groups (Dixon et al., 2009; Dixon Rayle, 2005; Dixon Rayle & Chung, 2007; Dixon Rayle & Myers, 2004; Marshall, 2001; Taylor & Turner, 2001).

Mattering at School

Based on the current knowledge regarding mattering, students' mattering to others at school likely relates to a key aspect of healthy school climate, most often called school cohesion, which has been found to be strongly correlated with increased academic achievement (Balfanz & Byrnes, 2006; Chen, 2007; MacNeil, Prater, & Busch, 2009). A healthy and nurturing school climate is an important factor in the success of all students, and is embedded within the American School Counselor Association's The ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs[R] (ASCA, 2005) foundation element. …

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