Racial peer group selection in African American high school students

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Date: Apr. 2002
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Document Type: Article
Length: 5,464 words

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This study examined the influence of racial identity and other potential factors that may contribute to African American high school students' selection of a racial peer group. Results indicated that racial identity, feelings of racial similarity, and racial composition of one's neighborhood were differentially related to peer group selection.

Esta investigacion examino la influencia de la identidad racial y otros factores potenciales que pueden contribuir a la seleccion del grupo de companeros racial de estudiantes de la preparatoria Africano Americanos. Cien y cuatro estudiantes Africano Americanos de una preparatoria multi-etnica completaron medidas sobre su posicion de identidad racial, los sentimientos de la similtud racial, susceptibilidad a la presion de sus companeros, y la constitucion racial su vencindario.


According to Erikson (1968), the psychosocial task of adolescence is the successful resolution of the identity crisis arising out of the need to form an integrated sense of personal identity. The nature of the identity crisis forces the adolescent to make identity choices across several different areas of identity formation or in several identity domains. One such identity domain is racial identity. Racial identity is a particularly salient identity domain when the individual lives in a community with people of different races and in a society in which status along racial lines is an important issue. As such, African American adolescents in particular may struggle with issues of racial identity during this stage of development. In addition, in the process of formulating an identity, peer groups help adolescents develop identifies. By choosing to associate with a particular group of friends, adolescents define themselves and create their own social style (Newman, 1982). Therefore, the purpose of our study was to examine how racial identity relates to peer group selection in African American high school students.

A frequently occurring phenomenon in ethnically mixed high schools is the ethnic segregation of peer crowds (Steinberg, Dornbusch, & Brown, 1992). Although this phenomenon may occur in all racial ethnic groups, in Tatum's (1997) book titled Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? Black racial identity development is offered as an explanation for the self imposed racial segregation found among African American students in multiethnic environmental contexts. Several scholars have theorized about the process of racial identity development in African Americans (e.g., Cross, 1971, 1991; Helms, 1990, 1995). Helms's (1995) model of racial identity development in people of color consists of five ego identity statuses that are characterized by differences in racial reference group orientation and cognitive schemata related to racial issues. For African Americans, the characteristics for each of the racial identity ego statuses are as follows:

1. Pre-Encounter: a White racial reference group orientation and rejection of Blacks as such and obliviousness to socioracial concerns

2. Encounter: ambivalence and confusion regarding racial identity and repression of anxiety-provoking racial information

3. Immersion/Emersion: a Black racial reference group orientation and rejection of Whites, an externally defined racial identity and hypervigilance toward racial stimuli

4. Internalization: a Black racial reference group orientation without rejection of Whites, internally defined racial identity,...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A86743203