Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

M.A. in Psychology

First Advisor

Laura R. Johnson

Second Advisor

John Young

Third Advisor

Nicolaas Prins

Abstract

In light of historical and current challenges related to oppression, racism, and socioeconomic inequities, civic engagement may be particularly beneficial for African Americans. Both quantitative (self-report measures) and qualitative (interviews) methods were used to investigate the role of socio-cultural constructs such as racial identity in predicting civic engagement in African American young adults. Participants were 171 African American students enrolled in a predominately white university in Northern Mississippi. A majority of the participants were single, female, freshmen, and heterosexual. Each participant completed survey packets that included a demographic questionnaire and measures that assessed racial identity, acculturation, self-efficacy, and experiences with racism. Regression analyses revealed racial identity to be the only significant predictor of service involvement, religious involvement, future civic behavior, political awareness, social justice attitudes, and diversity attitudes. Emerging from qualitative data were motivators and sustainers of engagement, the influence of key relationships and religion, and factors that contribute to disengagement. Overall, the findings from this study are in line with earlier research pointing to the strong influence of racial identity on motivational behaviors such as help seeking and academic achievement. The present research opens the door to possible approaches for enhancing the development of African American youth and emerging adults, namely through civic engagement and sociopolitical awareness.

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