Do Cultural Attitudes Matter? the Role of Cultural Orientation on Academic Self-Concept among Black/African College Students

By Williams, Wendi S.; Chung, Y. Barry | Journal of College Counseling, October 2013 | Go to article overview

Do Cultural Attitudes Matter? the Role of Cultural Orientation on Academic Self-Concept among Black/African College Students


Williams, Wendi S., Chung, Y. Barry, Journal of College Counseling


The authors explored the relationship between academic self-concept and noncognitive variables (i.e., Africentric cultural orientation, academic class level, gender, and involvement in culturally relevant school and community activities) among Black/African college students. Results indicated that Africentric cultural orientation and academic class level were significantly related to academic self-concept. Female students had higher scores on the Academic Self-Concept Scale (Reynolds, Ramirez, Magrina, & Allen, 1980) compared with their male peers. Implications for counseling practice and future research are discussed.

Keywords: academic self-concept, Black/African college students, cultural orientation

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Although the rate of enrollment of Black/African college students (i.e., students of African descent typically identified as Black, African American, African, and Caribbean has increased (43.4% in the past decade; Cook & Cordova, 2007), it remains significantly low when compared with that of European American college students. In 2008, Black/African college student enrollment was 13.5% compared with 63.3% for European American students (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 2010a). Furthermore, whereas 71.5% of European American students completed degree requirements, only 9.8% of Black/African students were able to do the same (NCES, 2010b). Although the rate of degree completion is low for Black/African students overall, Black/ African male students have disproportionately low degree completion rates when compared with both European American male (7.8% vs. 73.4%) and Black/African female (7.8% vs. 11.3%) students (NCES, 2010b).

As Black/African college students grapple with challenges to persistence in college, college counseling centers are potential sites for providing critical supports. While counseling center staff and administrators deal with the changing social and political climate related to mental health on college campuses (Gilford, 2003), the focus on multiculturally competent and socially just counseling interventions and approaches has become more prevalent (Smith, Baluch, Bernabei, Robohm, & Sheehy, 2003). Furthermore, despite a long-standing focus on the specific concerns of Black/African students on college campuses (Westbrook, Miyares, & Roberts, 1978), results have been inconclusive (Jennings, 1996; June, Curry, & Gear, 1990; Schwitzer, Griffin, Ancis, & Thomas, 1999; Stabb & Cogdal, 1992). In an early study, Wesforook et al. (1978) determined that although intraracial group conflict occurred between students when their racial group was dominant on the college campus (i.e., European American students at predominantly White institutions [PWIs] and Black/ African students at historically Black colleges and universities [HBCUs]), there were no significant differences between the types of concerns for which Black/ African and European American students sought counseling.

In later studies, however, researchers have found that Black/African students and students of other ethnic backgrounds report specific counseling concerns at higher rates than do their European American counterparts (Constantine, Chen, & Ceesay, 1997; Jennings, 1996; June et al., 1990; Nishimura, 2009; Schwitzer et al., 1999; Stabb & Cogdal, 1992). These researchers have primarily reported on the frequency of problems and concerns endorsed on counseling issues checklists used at intake. Aside from reports about specific experiences with racism (Nishimura, 2009), Black/African students tended to report concerns related to financial difficulty, living conditions, academic adjustment overall, specific challenges to studying skills, deficits in content areas (e.g., math ability), and relating to faculty (Jennings, 1996; June et al., 1990). Relationship concerns (i.e., familial and romantic) and depression were concerns for ethnic minority college students (Constantine et al. …

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