Friendships of High-Achieving African American Adolescents: Relation to Ethnic Identity and Achievement Values
Morrison, Danette A.
Wentzel, Kathryn R.
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The academic achievement of African American adolescents is a national concern for educators and researchers especially since current reports depict the underachievement of African American students as continuing to lag behind their European American peers. Determining what factors within the school environment that contributes to the achievement gap and how it can be reduced remains an important issue in alleviating disparities seen in educational achievement and attainment. This study examined the relation between characteristics of the close friendships of high-achieving African American adolescents and students’ identity development and motivation in school. Data were collected from 217 high-achieving African American students within 10th to 12th grade from 5 public and private high schools. Each student self-reported on their ethnicity, gender, parents’ education level, grade, FARMs, GPA, perceived teacher support (emotional, academic, and instrumental support), their perception of their ethnic identity, and their perception of their achievement values. Through the use of nomination procedures, students also identified their close friends and responded to questions concerning how supportive (emotional, academic, and instrumental support) they each were. Results from multiple regression analyses showed that the provision of instrumental support from close friends related to the exploration process of the high-achieving students’ ethnic identity. In addition, there was a strong relation between the ethnic identity of close friends and that of the individual. Furthermore, although friend support was not a significant predictor of achievement values, demographic (mother’s education level, grade, and FARMS) and control (teacher support) variables predicted students’ importance and utility of school respectively. These findings add to the literature on age and socioeconomic status as they relate to student’s motivation to achieve. Overall, this study provides some evidence highlighting ways in which close friendships might relate to the self-development of high-achieving African American adolescents. This study provides a starting point for additional ways in which to explore how peer processes relate to the academic behaviors of high-achieving African American adolescents.