Darensbourg, Alicia Marie (2011-10). Examining the Academic Achievement of Black Youth: The Roles of Social Influence, Achievement Values and Behavioral Engagement. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • The achievement gap between White youth and youth of color is a pervasive problem in the United States. Many cultural explanations have been provided within the academic literature to explain the differences in achievement between Black and White youth. However, present theories lack empirical evidence and continuously use a deficit model to explain Black adolescent achievement. It is of utmost importance to explore other theories about Black youth achievement and to identify protective factors to support Black adolescent academic success. Study I of this dissertation examines the effect of behavioral engagement and achievement values on the academic achievement of Black late elementary school students longitudinally through the use of Structural Equation Modeling. Results indicate that whereas behavioral engagement is a significant predictor of academic achievement, abstract achievement values do not influence behavioral engagement or academic achievement. In a follow-up to the study, Study II examines a more complete construct of achievement values, along with behavioral engagement and the impact of these constructs on Black adolescents' academic achievement. Additionally, this study assessed who, peers or parents, has influence on the academic attainment of Black adolescents through the use of Structural Equation Modeling. Results indicate that the achievement values of Black adolescents affect behavioral engagement and subsequent achievement. Furthermore, results suggest that both peer and parent influences have a significant effect on students' achievement values and behavioral engagement. Intervention strategies including fostering the development of positive and academically supportive peer relationships, creating opportunities for youth to interact with pro-social peers, and providing explicit strategies to encourage the continued involvement of parents and parental academic socialization are discussed.

publication date

  • August 2011