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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

WashU: Healthy Racial Identity Important for Adolescent African-American Girls

African-American girls with strong racial identity are more likely to be academically curious and persistent in school, according to new research from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

[Photo: Dr. Sheretta Butler-Barnes]

The findings could have implications for the physical and emotional health of children reaching into adulthood, according to the lead author, Dr. Sheretta Butler-Barnes, assistant professor at the Brown School.

Researchers surveyed adolescent Black girls who were recruited from a longitudinal study when they were ages 12 – 16.  The study found that racial identity and positive perceptions of school climate were associated with greater academic motivation and that racial identity acted as a protective factor in hostile or negative school climates.

“Persons of color who have unhealthy racial identity beliefs tend to perform lower in school and have more symptoms of depression,” Dr. Butler-Barnes said. “There is a link between education and health-related outcomes. The next step is to examine how these contexts contribute to risky behavior taking in Black girls.”

The paper was published on-line November 20 in Child Development.

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Video: Sheretta Butler-Barnes addresses structural racism and inequalities in education