Event: Undergraduate Research Symposium
Date: May 18, 2019
Location: UCI Student Center
Presenter: Daisy Padilla
Mentors: Jacquelynne S. Eccles, Nayssan Safavian, Anna-Lena Dicke
Title: Life Changes Broadcast Students’ Educational Aspirations
The aim of this study is to examine whether and how high stress life events are associated with African American youths’ educational aspirations. Longitudinal data from the Maryland Adolescent Development in Context Study was examined for high school students at age 16 and again two and four years afterwards. Participants were surveyed on their life experiences and reported life stressors were aggregated into four broad categories: neighborhood stressors (e.g., gun fire, witnessing violent crime), family-related stressors (e.g., pregnancy or significant health changes), financial hardship (e.g., difficulty paying bills, lost job), and violence (e.g., threatened with weapon) across the ages of 16 to 20. African American youth maintained high and stable educational aspirations. At age 16, 37% aspired to completing some college or more and 52% aspired to pursue graduate school. At age 18, 60% aspired to receiving a college education. By age 20, 59% continued to aspire to pursuing a college-degree. Youth experienced a variety of life stressors during adolescence. At age 16, the two highest reported stressors experienced were neighborhood (64%) and familial (81%) stressors. At age 18, 33% reported experiencing familial stressors, 30% neighborhood, and 28.6% financial stressors. By age 20, 27% reported family and 25% financial stressors. While most of the participants experienced at least one or more of the stressors throughout the ages of 16–20, they maintained their high educational aspirations. This means students held strong beliefs about their future and understand that education is the merited way of doing so. Implications will be discussed.