Rethinking Ethnicity and Offending: Ethnic Identify and Offending in African American Adolescents

Michel, Jaime Lee, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia
Wilson, Melvin, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia

Comparative studies on ethnicity and offending tend to focus on categorical definitions of ethnicity and promote deficit based theories. In contrast, a current trend in the developmental literature incorporates cultural assets, resources and/or processes into our understanding of risk and resilience in African American youth development. The current longitudinal study employed a cultural resilience perspective by examining ethnic identity dimensions of affirmation/belonging and exploration as promotive and protective in regards to offending outcomes for African American adolescents transitioning into young adulthood. Ethnic identity dimensions were examined within the context of individual (negative coping) and environmental (victimization) risk factors. Participants were 196 African American youth, who were assessed two years apart, at approximately 16 and 17 years old, and at 18 and 19 years old. As expected, a promotive model of cultural resilience was supported for ethnic group affirmation/belonging in which higher levels of the affirmation/belonging dimension were related to a relative decrease in offending over a two year period and was promotive even within the context of victimization. A protective model of cultural resilience was not supported; neither ethnic identity dimension moderated the relationship between negative coping and offending, or victimization and offending. The implications of cultural resilience models for research and interventions are highlighted.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
African American Adolescents, ethnicity, identity
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