The Relationship of Gender and Achievement to Future Outlook among African American Adolescents

Article excerpt

Current trends in the academic performance of African American adolescents are an area of concern among educators. Recent studies suggest that African American adolescents are at heightened risk for remedial instruction, school suspension, course failure, and school drop-out (Ford & Harris, 1996; Lisella & Serwatka, 1996; Qakes, 1985; Shaw & Braden, 1990). Factors identified as contributing to limited academic performance among these youths include academic tracking, limited teacher support, cultural mistrust, and disidentification with the academic culture of school (Finn, 1989; Oakes, 1985; Steele, 1992; Terrell, Terrell, & Miller, 1993). Lacking in the assessment of school achievement among African American adolescents is an understanding of how these youths cognitively envision themselves in the future and how appraisals of their personal future may shape academic performance. This study qualitatively examined the connection between future outlook and school achievement among low-income, urban African Ame rican adolescents, exploring how conceptions of the future are integrated into and manifested through students' academic performance. The study evolved from the notion that cognitive manifestations of the future, either positive or negative, influence current behavior and may serve as a motivating factor for school achievement (Nurmi, 1991; Nuttin, 1974, 1985).

Future Outlook

Future outlook refers to individuals' attitudes and expectations about the construction of future events (Nuttin, 1974, 1985). For the purposes of this paper, future outlook encompasses the concepts of future orientation and future time perspective, terms often used interchangeably in the literature. Inherent in the definition of future outlook is the belief that individuals' hopes for and expectations of the future influence present behavior. According to Nurmi (1991), a precursor to the development of a future outlook is the ability to connect current educational outcomes to future goals and ambitions. Researchers, found that, among adolescents, an extended (Nurmi, Poole, & Kalakoski, 1994; Nuttin, 1985) and optimistic (Poole & Cooney, 1987; Seginer, 1988) future outlook facilitates school achievement through enhancing long-term goal setting and persistence (Nurmi, Poole, & Kalakoski, 1994; Nuttin, 1985). Students who are optimistic about the future tend to be more academically motivated than students who a re uncertain about their possibilities. In a study examining the connection between present and possible (future) selves and grade point average among early adolescents, Anderman, Anderman, and Griesinger (1999) found that grade point average was positively related to perceptions of a positive possible self. Students who were more optimistic regarding possible self tended to outperform students who espoused negative perceptions of possible self.

In addition, future outlook has been studied across gender (Greene, 1990; Greene & Wheatley, 1992; Sundberg, Poole, & Tyler, 1983), socioeconomic level (Greene, 1990; Nurmi, 1987, 1989; Poole & Cooney, 1987; Trommsdorff, 1986), and ethnicity (Seginer & Halabi, 1991; Seginer, Trommsdorff, & Essau, 1993; Zimbardo, 1994). Prior research suggests that females tend to exhibit a more limited future outlook than males. Studies also have found that females tend to set fewer goals, are more pessimistic regarding their personal future (Greene & Wheatley, 1992; Nurmi, 1989; Trommsdorff, 1986), and tend to focus on more immediate goals (Bentley, 1983; Poole & Cooney, 1987) compared with their male counterparts. The goals and expectations of females, as compared with those of males, are informed more by family and other interpersonal relationships. In contrast to males, females often report a "double load" or a "rapid pileup" of family and career transitions (Greene & Wheatley, 1992; Lamm, Schmidt, & Trommsdorff, 1976). …


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