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Description 

Author(s) Jeffrey Lewis and Amy Hilgendorf

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The inadequate education many African American children receive contributes to and perpetuates socioeconomic, health, and other inequalities throughout the course of their lives. This problem is particularly acute for African American males. Research has yielded important insights into the factors and processes that affect academic outcomes for African American children, including the role of social support and networks for academic success.

Although some factors that promote and inhibit school success have been identified, little is known about the nature of school-related support networks for African American boys. This publication addresses this knowledge gap through an analysis of egocentric network maps developed from interviews with 28 African American boys in grades 4–6. The findings indicate that the boys have support networks more extensive than expected, and more than assumed or known by school staff. In addition to expected support from their mothers, the boys reported significant support from peers and adult males, and their support often included multiple households and multiple communities. This publication discusses the implications of these findings with respect to how support networks might function as a setting for “natural mentors” for African American boys.

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