Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Investigating Whether and When Family Ethnic/Race Socialization Improves Academic Performance

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Investigating Whether and When Family Ethnic/Race Socialization Improves Academic Performance

Article excerpt

This study examined the link between family ethnic/race socialization and Black kindergarteners' and first graders' academic performance as measured by their general knowledge, math, and reading assessment scores. Drawing on identity theory, the authors predicted that repeated instances of family ethnic/race socialization would increase academic performance by affirming self-schemas and preparing young Black children for racialized experiences. Survey data used to address the prediction were nationally representative and longitudinal, and gathered as part of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K). Results showed that routine family ethnic/race socialization was associated with high assessment scores in kindergarten, but not consistently linked to improvement in assessment scores from kindergarten to first grade. Overall identity theory was supported but certain results were unexpected. For example, there was evidence of a curvilinear relationship between family ethnic/race socialization and academic performance where too infrequent or frequent socialization had negligible impact.

Given the salutary consequence of high educational attainment in adulthood, it is no surprise that predictors of, and disparities in, youth's academic performance are of great interest to education researchers (Bali & Alvarez, 2003; Crystal, Shea, & Krishnaswami, 1992; Kerckhoff, Raudenbush, & Glennie, 2001; Oates, 2003; Smith, 1989). A broad conclusion derived from existing studies is that structural inequities influence academic performance. For instance, minority and poor youth disproportionately attend under-funded schools that lack resources to stimulate and engage them (Condron & Roscigno, 2003; Kozol, 1991; Lewis, 2003; MacLeod, 1995). In turn, such schools often reproduce the status quo by penalizing disadvantaged youth with inferior scholastic opportunities (through mechanisms such as tracking), which later materialize into lesser occupational opportunities (Ansatone, 2003; Bowles & Gintis, 1976; Hochschild, 2003; Kao & Thompson, 2003; Oakes, 1985). Another broad conclusion is that social psychological processes influence academic performance. For instance, being around similar and supportive others, exposure to scholastically successful role models, and repeated transmission of values endorsing education improve youth's school engagement and achievement (AinsworthDarnell & Downey, 1998; Alexander, Entwisle, & Thompson, 1987; Bali & Alvarez, 2003; Horvat & Lewis, 2003; Oates, 2003; Payne, 2003; Tyson, Darity, & Castellino, 2005).

Confluence of these two broad conclusions can be examined in a novel way by considering how ethnic/race socialization relates to academic performance. Scholars define ethnic/race socialization as the process whereby children of color are taught about the meaning of ethnicity and race, including race-related structural inequities (Banks- Wallace & Parks, 2001; Brown, Tanner-Smith, Lesane-Brown, & Ezell, 2007; Cheshire, 2001; Coard, Wallace, Stevenson, & Brotman, 2004; Fischer & Shaw, 1999; Hughes, 2003; Hughes & Chen, 1997; Lesane-Brown, 2006; Peters, 1985; Phinney & Rotheram, 1987; Thompson, Anderson, & Bakeman, 2000; Thornton, Chatters, Taylor, & Allen, 1990). Therefore, ethnic/race socialization initiates a watershed experience through which children of color develop attachment to their ethnic/racial ingroup and come to understand the nature of ethnic/racial intolerance (Brown et al., 2007; Phinney & Rorheram, 1987). Research suggests that parents and close relatives are typically the first persons to teach children about ethnicity and race (Brown et al., 2007; Coard et al., 2004). Scholars (Banks- Wallace & Parks, 2001; Coard et al., 2004; Hughes & Chen, 1997; LesaneBrown, 2006; Thornton et al., 1990) assert that family ethnic/race socialization occurs during interactions when parents and close relatives transmit values to children. …

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