Child & Youth Well-being Working Paper

Factors Influencing African American Youths’ Decisions to Stay in School

Little attention has been given to the non-problematic development and positive life decisions of African American youth. This paper reports findings of 231 African American students. The goal of the study was to assess factors which contribute to their academic grade point averages and intentions to stay in school. The conceptual model employed in this study was the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) which contends that intentions to carryout a behavior is a function of Attitude towards the behavior, Social Normative support for undertaking the behavior, and the Perceived Control of being able to carry out the behavior. In addition to the TPB components, the contributions of self-esteem and racial self-esteem were also examined for their influence on academic strivings. The TPB model did predict well student’s intentions to stay in school, but predicted less well student grade point averages. Self-esteem was also a significant predictor of intentions to stay in school, but was not a significant predictor of gpa. Racial self-esteem was observed to be only marginally significant, but as predicted, was negatively associated with student Intentions to stay in school. However racial self esteem was not observed to be a significant predictor of student gpa. Hence students with positive self-esteem, who have favorable attitudes towards school and perceive fewer barriers to completing school are most likely to do so. But, the negative association between racial self-esteem and academic intentions suggests that some African American youths may need be convinced that academic success is not an act of racial betrayal.

Subsequent publication: Davis, L. E., Johnson, S., Miller-Cribbs, J., & Saunders, J. (2002). A brief report: Factors influencing African American youth decisions to stay in school. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 17(3), 223-234. doi:10.1177/0743558402173001

Project: Choices of Life for Adolescence Success (CLASS) Project


Davis, L. E., Johnson, S., Miller-Cribbs, J., Cronen, S., & Scheuler-Whitaker, L. (1998). Factors influencing African American youths’ decisions to stay in school (CSD Working Paper No. 98-3). St. Louis, MO: Washington University, Center for Social Development.