"Role Models and Why to Admire Them: A Look at African-American Adolescent Development Through the People They Admire Most"
Society for Research on Adolescence (SRA) Biennial Meeting
April 12-14, 2018
Presentation Title: "Role Models and Why to Admire Them: A Look at African-American Adolescent Development Through the People They Admire Most" (poster)
Author: Kristel Dupaya
Role models are considered important in the development of all youth. Previous studies have shown that role models are important in developing one’s ethnic identity (Yancey, Siegel & McDaniel, 2002) and can act as psychosocial buffers for urban adolescent development (Hurd, Zimmerman & Xue, 2009). Using a longitudinal dataset of predominantly African-American youth (61%) that focused on social contexts influencing adolescent development, this study aims to compare and contrast characteristics of who adolescents admire and for what reasons over time. Furthermore, this study looks at how the role models identified in the early stages of adolescents may potentially impact ethnic identity development and psychosocial outcomes later in life.
The longitudinal project followed 1,060 families of middle school children with a broad range of socio-economic status. Starting in 1993, while in 8th grade (Wave 3 of data collection), students were asked the open ended questions “Who is the celebrity or famous person you admire the most? What do you admire most about this person?” Students were interviewed again in 11th grade (Wave 4), 1 year after high school (Wave 5) and 3 years after high school in 2000 (Wave 6).
Preliminary analyses have begun to show emerging patterns for which celebrities students report to admire. For Wave 3, 768 students (407 male, 361 female) reported having a celebrity they admire. Of the female students, 42% reported having a female celebrity they admired. With the male students however, 95% had reported having a male celebrity they admired. When looking at the ethnicity of celebrity role models reported, 90% of African-American students reported having a celebrity they admired of the same ethnicity, while only 65% of the White students reported a celebrity of the same ethnicity. For both African-American and White students, the highest reported quality of the celebrity they admire was the celebrity’s overall skill at the job they do (African-American 50%, White 45%). The next highest reported qualities for African-American students at 7% each were gender neutral competencies (e.g. achieves their goals, influential and has skills, etc.) and altruistic acts (e.g. civil rights activist, helps people, etc.). For White students, the next highest qualities reported were positive social characteristics (e.g. agreeable, fair, etc. 7%) and gender neutral competencies (5%). From this initial breakdown of Wave 3 data, the stark contrast in gender congruency of admired celebrity speaks to the lack of visibility of female athletes, actors and other prestigious roles.
Continued analyses will be done to explore the impact of participation in activist events such as the Million Man March in 1995 on who and for what reason these students said they admired. Further analyses will also be done looking at the association between role model admired qualities and psychosocial well-being as well as ethnic and gender identity, using data from student questionnaires in Waves 5 and 6. This study expands on previous research by looking at admired qualities of role models longitudinally, and also allows for a look at the impact of national activist movements on developing youth.