Adaptive and Protective Factors: Promoting Positive Youth Development

Racial and ethnic group membership may place children at risk for poor school outcomes through perceptions of group barriers to mobility (Fordham & Ogbu, 1986), awareness of negative group stereotypes (Steele & Aronson, 1995), and experiences with racial and ethnic discrimination (Wong, Eccles & Sameroff, 2003). However, scholars have increasingly recognized the significance of culturally specific promotive and protective factors in the context of normative development among minoritized youth. Drawing inspiration from Neblett, Rivas-Drake, and Umana-Taylor (2012), we briefly discuss three adaptive and protective cultural factors associated with resilience among minoritized youth, which might inform school psychology practice: (a) racial and ethnic identity, (b) ethnic-racial socialization, and (c) cultural orientation.

Racial and ethnic identity can be described as a child’s attitudes and beliefs about the significance and meaning of race and ethnicity in their lives (Cross, 1991; Phinney, 1990). Among studies using correlational designs, evidence suggests that positive feelings about racial and ethnic group membership are associated with a broad range of child outcomes, including academic persistence (e.g., Butler-Barnes, Chavous, Hurd, & Varner, 2013) and self-esteem (e.g., Umana-Taylor & Updegraff, 2007), and are negatively associated with internalizing and externalizing symptoms (e.g., McHale et al., 2006; Wong et al., 2003). Such positive outcomes have been found among Latino (e.g., Romero & Roberts, 2003), African American (e.g., Gaylord-Harden, Ragsdale, Mandara, Richards, & Petersen, 2007), Asian (e.g., Umana-Taylor & Shin, 2007), American Indian (e.g., Kulis, Napoli, & Marsiglia, 2002), and multiethnic samples of youth (e.g., Umana-Taylor, 2004). Though relatively fewer in number, empirical studies also provide support for the protective role of racial and ethnic identity (e.g., Sellers, Copeland-Linder, Martin & Lewis, 2006). In their investigation among African American middle schoolers, Wong et al. (2003) found that a positive connection to one’s racial group moderated the association between racial discrimination and poor academic achievement and problem behaviors. Similarly, in a study of Latino adolescents, Romero and Roberts (2003) found that youth with high ethnic affirmation who experienced high discrimination still reported high selfesteem.

Ethnic-racial socialization messages communicate to children what racial and ethnic group membership means and play a significant role in shaping youths’ racial and ethnic identity (Hughes et al., 2006). Empirical research has primarily focused on how different forms of parental ethnic-racial socialization impact child development. Studies across diverse groups of ethnic minority children link ethnic-racial socialization with positive youth developmental outcomes (e.g., Smalls, 2009). For instance, cultural socialization (teaching children to have pride in their racial-ethnic heritage and history) and preparation for bias (teaching children about racial and ethnic inequalities and preparing them to cope with discrimination) have been positively associated with academic motivation (Hughes et al., 2006). Additional evidence has documented positive associations between cultural socialization and self-concept (e.g., Davis & Stevenson, 2006) and negative associations between these messages and internalizing symptoms (e.g., Neblett, Banks, Cooper, & Smalls-Clover, 2013). Empirical studies also have pointed to the protective effects of ethnic-racial socialization against the deleterious impact of discrimination on youths’ self-esteem (e.g., Harris-Britt, Valrie, Kurtz-Costes & Rowley, 2007) and stress and problem behaviors (Neblett et al., 2008). Though family is an influential context of socialization for children (Bronfenbrenner, 1977), during adolescence the source of ethnic-racial socialization broadens to include peers, teachers, and the educational curriculum. Schools may communicate explicitly, implicitly, intended, and unintended, to youth how much they and their culture are valued (Aldana & Byrd, 2015). Aldana and Byrd (2015) highlighted that within the context of schools, cultural socialization can include discussions of literary works by authors of color in an English course, highlighting the contributions of various ethnic and racial groups within U.S. history curricula, offering of specialized courses focused on specific racial and ethnic groups (e.g., African American Psychology), and multicultural celebrations such as Black History and Hispanic Heritage months.

Cultural orientation refers to a child’s inclination to think, feel, or act in ways consistent with mainstream culture (acculturation) and their ethnic culture (encul-turation; Neblett et al., 2012). Studies exploring the influence of acculturation and enculturation on adaptation are mixed. However, ethnic minority youths’ orientation towards their culture is found to be promotive of developmental outcomes including academic engagement (Gonzales et al., 2008), self-esteem (Constantine, Alleyne, Wallace, & Franklin-Jackson, 2006), less drug use (e.g., Cruz, King, Cauce, Conger, & Robins, 2017), and fewer externalizing behaviors (e.g., Choi, Kim, Pekelnicky, Kim, & Kim, 2017). Evidence also suggests that ethnic cultural orientation can mitigate the harmful impact of discrimination experiences. For instance, Umaña-Taylor and Updegraff (2007) found that the negative effects of ethnic discrimination were reduced for Latino male adolescents with low orientation towards mainstream culture but high orientation towards Latino culture.

Overall, this empirical evidence highlights significant culturally specific resources that might impact school functioning for minoritized youth and is animportant divergence from deficient-oriented approaches to the study of development among this population. Furthermore, there is a burgeoning body of research that identifies racial and ethnic diversity of schools and classrooms as a positive contributor to school experiences and school success for all students (e.g., Juvonen, Kogachi & Graham, 2017; Juvonen, Nishina & Graham, 2006). For instance, in their investigation exploring the effects of school-based ethnic diversity on student well-being, Juvonen et al. (2017) found that for African American, Asian, Latino, and White students, school ethnic diversity was associated with lower sense of social vulnerability defined as feeling safer at school, less victimized, and less lonely. This evidence runs counter to the ability grouping approach that has long predominated in schools and in neighborhood segregation. In general, research studies such as the aforementioned demonstrate that school ethnic diversity has robust school-related benefits for multiple ethnic groups.

 
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