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Stereotype Threat, Identification with Academics, and Withdrawal from School: Why the most successful students of colour might be most likely to withdraw

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Claude Steele's stereotype threat hypothesis posits that when there are negative stereotypes about the intellectual capacity of certain (stigmatised) groups, members of that group suffer aversive consequences; group members who are most strongly identified with the stigmatised domain in question (e.g., intellectual or academic ability) are those most likely to suffer the effects of stereotype threat. In education, it is widely held that personal investment in schooling should lead to more positive outcomes. However, highly‐invested individuals will most keenly experience the negative effects of stigma. Thus those most at risk for withdrawing from school among students of colour (who suffer a stigma of intellectual inferiority) could be those most invested in schooling. This hypothesis was tested by measuring identification with academics among a group of incoming students at a racially diverse inner‐city high school in the Midwest USA. Regardless of race, the students who most strongly identified with academics (they valued and considered academics central to the self) had higher GPAs, lower levels of absenteeism, and fewer behavioural referrals. However, among students of colour the most strongly identified were more likely to withdraw, while identification with academics did not significantly influence the withdrawal of Caucasian students. These results highlight the importance of providing a supportive environment that diffuses stereotype threat for all students, even those who appear to be academically successful.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: North Carolina State University, USA 2: University of Oklahoma, USA

Publication date: August 1, 2006

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