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FACTORS INFLUENCING RACIAL SOCIALIZATION OF
AFRICAN AMERICAN PARENTS

Student’s name, Second student’s name, Dr. Anita Thomas*

Counselor Education

This study seeks to identify the correlations between racial socialization, racial identity and acculturation by utilizing surveys developed to assess each concept and observe the patterns among them. Racial socialization is the process of rasing African American children to have positive self-concept and racial identity in a negative and often hostile environment (Green, 1994; Stevenson, 1993). The process includes both implicit and explicit messages given to children and adolescents on being African American, implicit messages on appropriate values, beliefs, and behaviors, as well as direct coping mechanisms for racism. The type of racial socialization messages a child receives may be related to the acculturation of the family and the racial identity of the care-givers.

Racial identity is often described by using the five-stage model of psychological nigrescence developed by Cross (1971, 1995). The continuum begins at the preencounter stage with low salience to race and anti-Black attitudes. Encounter, immersion/emersion, internalization and internalization/commitment stages follow. A high salience for the importance of race and developed Black pride characterize the final stage of internalization/commitment. Acculturation is considered to be on a continuum with traditional and bicultural individuals. Traditional individuals identify with African values, traditions and practices. They usually cannot speak much English and may be immersed in their culture of origin. Acculturated individuals have embraced and adopted the majority culture. They may not be familiar with an native language and associate themselves with the mainstream. Bicultural individuals fall somewhere in-between. They are often bilingual and can feel relatively at ease in either environment (Landrine and Klonoff, 1996).

This study seeks to verify a correlation between the presence of positive socialization messages with the developed stages of racial identity. The researchers hypothesize individuals who have experienced racial socialization messages will have a higher salience to race and racial awareness will be incorporated into their self concept. Such individuals are assumed to be more traditional than acculturated. Conversely, this study assumes individuals receiving negative or no socialization messages will have less salience to racial issues and may not consider race when defining themselves. Such individuals are hypothesized to be more acculturated and be more at ease in the mainstream.

Packets were created containing surveys to measure racial socialization, racial identity and acculturation and a demographics sheet. The demographics sheet gathered data on family size, income, occupation and education. Each page of the packets was coded to aid in data collection. African American churches in suburban Cook and Lake counties were approached for participants. Survey packets were completed at the researchers’ first visit. The participants were then invited to take part in programming addressing racial issues offered by researchers set for a later date. Surveys were collected and data entered into a cross data analysis system to aid with identifying correlations.

The research conducted has shown strong correlations between racial socialization, racial identity and acculturation. The three concepts appear to be part of an interrelated process. Racial socialization provided by families, teachers and local communities influence the racial identity and acculturation of children and adolescents. Numerous interventions can be developed to promote racial awareness which can focus on socialization messages, self concept and acculturation issues. This multi-faceted approach offers guidance to those seeking to influence the development of youth.