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Journal Article: Identity and school adjustment: Revisiting the "acting White" assumption

Journal Article » Identity and school adjustment: Revisiting the "acting White" assumption


Blacks, Ethnic Identity, Racial and Ethnic Attitudes, School, Adjustment, Secondary Education, Theories


Spencer, Margaret Beale; Noll, Elizabeth; Stoltzfus, Jill; Harpalani, Vinay




It has long been offered as an explanation for the achievement gap between White and African American students, that African American youth would do better if they adopted a Eurocentric cultural values system. Unfortunately, this theory, along with a great amount of the established literature on minority youth identity development, depends on a deficit-oriented perspective to explain the discrepancy between African American and White students. This is problematic because the perspective denies minority youth a culturally specific normative developmental perspective of their own, and instead, compares their experience to the normative developmental processes observed in White children. This article invalidates that perspective with a Phenomenological Variant of Ecological Systems Theory approach to a study of 562 African American secondary school students (aged 11–16 yrs). These students, contrary to the traditionally offered "acting White" assumption, show high self-esteem and achievement goals in conjunction with high Afrocentricity. Further discussion of the study stresses the importance of considering the undeniable influence of culture and context. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2009 APA )