Abstract: Field to Field, Backbone to Boss

My Honors Thesis will explore what different cultural and societal expectations are being imposed upon African-American girls in comparison to African-American boys in order to understand how this impacts each gender’s attitudes towards college and educational attainment. The question to be addressed is “How does societal expectations of African-American boys and African-American girls contribute to their attitudes towards college attendance and educational achievement in a lower-socioeconomic neighborhood in Norfolk (VA) compared to a affluent neighborhood in Loudoun County (VA)? Questions created by the author will be utilized in semi-structured interviews with Black girls and boys in both Loudon County and Norfolk to determine the psychological impact of the different types of expectation learning, in addition to, document analysis in order to understand the profile of African-American students who attend college and have high educational attainment in these communities.

This study seeks to provide potential solutions to promote college attendance and educational achievement for both ethnic genders, in addition to, evaluating the socialization and societal practices that African-American girls experience in comparison to African-American boys in order to enhance the conversation around social norms as it pertains to African American children’s developmental growth and economic success in the twenty-first century.

Studies show that a multitude of factors halt African-Americans from attending college, achieving the same level of success as their non-marginalized peers, and carrying positive sentiments towards academic achievement.

Current research focuses primarily on the factors that collectively prevent African-American educational achievement, and some studies have even sought to independently study and understand the implications of social and educational elements on African-American boys’ educational achievement or African-American girls.’ Scholars like Tileston, Burris, and Darling have evaluated the impact of various concepts from the “acting white” phenomenon to the cultural “collective value system,” educational achievement, or the lack thereof, on black students educational achievement. Recent studies conducted in the UK demonstrate that boys who live in affluent neighborhoods, but are themselves poor, tend to have more social behavior issues and suffer from imposter syndrome; whereas girls tended to do better academically and socially (Odgers).

The question then arises how does this translate to a marginalized minority group in America where other influences, both culturally and socially, play a role in shaping attitudes towards educational achievement and college attendance?