Understanding Development of African American Boys and Young Men: Moving From Risks to Positive Youth Development

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Abstract

African American boys and young men in the United States face challenges unique to being a male and an ethnic minority in our society. Despite the marginalization of African American boys and young men, this article argues that African American boys and young men, like other individuals, are in large proportion able to overcome adversity and utilize positive youth development assets and resources, and that focusing on capabilities and strengths is worthy of primary emphasis (Lerner, Dowling, & Anderson, 2003; Stevenson, 2016). García Coll and colleagues’ (1996) integrative model of developmental competencies in minority children lays the groundwork for conceptualizing the profound influence of racism, economic disadvantage, oppression, segregation, and other trauma-inducing experiences on the development of African American boys and young men. We extend that framework by adding notions of positive development and adaptive calibration to contextual challenges to account for prosocial development of African American boys and young men. We present descriptive and experimental research support for this approach and argue that it has the potential for increasing the validity, sophistication, and utility of developmental research on about African American boys and young men are presented.

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