An ecological view of the risk discourse in African-American adolescent identity development

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Marriage and Family Therapy


Linda Stone Fish


Risk discourse, African-American, Adolescent, Identity development

Subject Categories

Developmental Psychology | Family, Life Course, and Society | Psychology | Race and Ethnicity | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology


This qualitative study addresses the question of African American adolescent identity development as examined through the "risk" discourse and participants' perception of how these adolescents succeed in society. Six African American adolescents were interviewed separately, in two, in-depth, semi-structured interviews. Using Bronfenbrenner's ecological model, focus groups were offered to a group of African American peers, six African American families, and a school staff group from a high school in central New York. The interviews were audiotaped, transcribed, coded and analyzed.

The ecological model, was used as the metaframework for the design of this study. The epistemological frameworks of postmodernism, feminism, and the narrative approach placed the study in social and political contexts. Research on African American families and adolescents, developmental theory and resiliency illuminated the previous works and tendency to stigmatize and marginalize this group.

The results confirmed much of the resiliency literature regarding the important people, institutions, and adolescent qualities that contribute to success. Of particular concern, African American adolescents and families reported a desire for schools to alter curricula, coursework and treatment to be more culturally sensitive and responsive to the needs of their community.


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