Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

A Qualitative Analysis of Family Support and Interaction among Black College Students at an Ivy League University

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

A Qualitative Analysis of Family Support and Interaction among Black College Students at an Ivy League University

Article excerpt

It is hypothesized that Black families and other kinship networks serve an integral role in supporting Black college students on predominately White campuses. The subjects for this study were a random sample of 50 Black undergraduate college students at a large, coeducational, academically selective, urban university. This study investigated whether family involvement among Black college students promotes social and intellectual competence, adaptation to and involvement within the University, and decreased stress among these students. It was found that Black family support was significantly important in decreasing stress and providing and emotional outlet for the participants.


It is widely known that for Black families, education is viewed as the path to liberation and success in the American society. Over the past 20 years, we have seen a marked increase in both the high school graduation rate of Black children, as well as an increase in the college participation rates. The American Council on Education (ACE, 2002) reports that in the year 2000, 77% of Black children graduated from high school. In 1999, the college participation rate of Blacks 18-24 years old was 39.4% (ACE, 2002). Wilds (2000) reports that 40% of Black college students graduate within six years of entering the institution.

Past studies on Black students at predominately White universities have concentrated on attrition and its causes. Citing academic underpreparedness (Loo & Rolison, 1986), socioeconomic status (Ottinger, 1991), and negative campus climate (Mabry, 1991) as factors that contribute to attrition, these authors have sought to provide an explanation for reasons why African American students are retained at a rate less than their White counterparts. More recently, researchers have focused less on attrition and more on the those factors that facilitate persistence through to graduation (Choy, 2002; Fries-Britt & Turner, 2002). It is this latter body of literature to which this article seeks to contribute.

Faegin and Sikes (1995) report increased "daily struggles and recurring crises" among Black students attending predominately White colleges and universities. Jung and Khalsa (1989) surveyed the correlation between stress, social support, coping strategies, and depression among African American and White students. In their study, African American students reported a higher number and severity of daily hassles than White students. This greater number of hassles was positively correlated with the level of depression for these students. Also, perceived family support among these students was related to lower depression (although actual support received was not statistically significant). Finally, those students who perceived greater support were more likely to use help-seeking behavior as a means of coping with problems. Students who perceived less support were more likely to use avoidance coping mechanisms.

In seeking to understand the coping abilities of successful Black students (those who persist to graduation), researchers have focused on the impact of family support on the successful adjustment of these students to the college environment. Family support and interaction has been found to significantly correlate with social adjustment and institutional attachment (Kenny & Stryker 1996); self-confidence and independence (Sedlacek, 1987); grade point average (Cutrona, Cole, Colangelo, Assouline, & Russell, 1994); and persistence (Gloria, Robinson-Kurplus, Hamilton, & Russell, 1999) of college students. Studies also show that students are more likely to contact peers or parents in times of stress or crisis (Henton, Lamke, Murphy, & Haynes, 1980; Martin & Burkes, 1985) and that students who maintain warm relationships with their parents during at least the first year of college form better relationships, seek out help, and are generally more integrated socially in university life (Bell, Avery, Jenkins, Feld, & Schoenrock, 1985; Kenny, 1987, 1990). …

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