Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Social Work, Ph.D.

First Advisor

Dr. Delores Dungee-Anderson


This study used survey design to explore the relationship between protective influences (support from parents, teachers and peers, social capital assets, and social support use), contextual risks, and two achievement outcomes in a representative sample of male and female African American high school seniors (N=317). Responses to two questionnaires, weighted cumulative grade point averages, and eleventh grade Virginia English Reading Standards of Learning test scores were analyzed. Multiple regression analysis revealed that some support variables were predictive of better achievement outcomes and others were associated with poorer outcomes. Three of the parent support predictors were associated with poorer achievement outcomes, suggesting that low-achieving African American students may have heightened needs for parent support during their senior year in high school, a point in time that determines the trajectory for years to follow. Even though 44 percent of the sample acknowledged a high level of exposure to contextual risks, its effects were more predictive of poorer outcomes for males than for females. This finding suggests that males may be more vulnerable to the effects of contextual risks. Additionally, only two support variables, Friend Support and Family Togetherness, moderated the influence of contextual risks on male student achievement. Qualitative findings revealed that important gender differences exist with regard to perceptions of support within the samples' home, school, and peer group environments. Females identified emotional support as a success factor more than males. In contrast, males acknowledged the importance of behavioral support as a school success factor. Both males and females endorsed tangible support as an important school success factor. Respondents also endorsed ambivalence about the role of peer support as a school success factor. Taken in combination, the study findings increase our understanding of the relationship between the context-linked experiences of urban African American adolescents and their achievement outcomes. The findings also support the critical need to extend our understanding about the role of contextual influences as we facilitate stronger connections between homes, schools, and communities. This document was created in Microsoft Word 2003 and Adobe Acrobat 7.0. The appendices are available and can be accessed in the print version only.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008

Included in

Social Work Commons