Category: Cultural Diversity / Vulnerable Populations
The racial gap in obtaining higher education has widened with 33% of Caucasians and 19% of African Americans age 25 and older receiving college degrees (National Center for Education Statistics, 2016). Moreover, African American youth disproportionately experience multiple adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), such as poverty and maltreatment, which are associated with poorer educational outcomes. Adolescence is a developmental period during which youth begin to consider educational aspirations, such as attending college, and develop plans to achieve these goals. Maintaining positive future expectations may be a beneficial coping strategy, particularly when adolescents experience adversity, and could lead to long-term positive adaptation. Ethnic identity, associated with multiple positive adjustment outcomes among minority youth, may mitigate the negative association between ACEs and future expectations (Rivas-Drake, 2014). The present study examined the potential protective role of ethnic identity at age 12 in the association between ACEs and future expectations among at-risk African American and Caucasian adolescents at age 14. Data were collected from 558 adolescents (73% African American, 27% Caucasian) who were at-risk for child maltreatment and participated in the Longitudinal Studies of Child Abuse and Neglect (LONGSCAN). ACEs were collected prospectively using multi-informant data (e.g., official CPS reports, caregiver reports) between birth and age 12. The Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure (MEIM; Phinney, 1990) was used to assess adolescents’ feelings of affirmation and belonging to their ethnic groups and orientation to other ethnic groups at age 12 and their future family, educational, and occupational expectations at age 14. Structural equation modeling was used to examine the moderational role of ethnic identity in the association between ACEs and future expectations. Although the overall model fit the data fairly well, c2(96) = 193.8, p < .05, CFI = .95, RMSEA = .04, SRMR = .04, invariance testing revealed that the baseline models for Caucasian and African American adolescents differed significantly, Dc2(23) = 75.27, p < .05. There were no associations between ACEs or ethnic identity and future expectations for Caucasians and there were no significant interactions. However, for African Americans, educational expectations were significantly and negatively associated with ACEs, b = -.06, p < .05, and significantly and positively associated with affirmation and belonging, b = .19, p < .05. Moreover, significant interactions revealed that the negative association between ACEs and educational expectations were mitigated by higher levels of affirmation and belonging, but were exacerbated by higher levels of other group orientation. The findings underscore the importance of cultivating strong ethnic identity among African American adolescents who have been exposed to adversity as a positive coping strategy to increase their educational aspirations.
Graduate Student in Clinical and Adolescent Psychology
Florida International University