Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Social Work

Major Professor

Terri Combs-Orme

Committee Members

David R. Dupper, John Orme, Edna Brown, George White


This dissertation critically examines the influence that environmental racial composition has on the racial identification development of African Americans adolescents. Theoretical models that describe the formation of racial identity are examined chronologically, and research compiled within social work literature on the topic of racial identification is examined. Although previous studies have examined how African American adolescents over the age of 15 deal with the complexities of racial identity development, to date there is no literature that examines how middle school age African American adolescents navigate the same waters. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between environmental racial composition and racial identity attitudes of African American adolescents. Specifically, do African American adolescents that live in a predominantly African American community racially identify themselves differently than African American adolescents that live in a predominantly White community? To determine this, the Multidimensional Inventory of Black Identity (MIBI) was given to 101 African American adolescents. A little more than half (57%) of study participants lived in a predominantly African American community in SC and the remaining 43% of participants lived in a predominantly White community in TN. The results from the study suggested that racial environmental composition (location) influenced the racial identity concepts of study participants, as there were significant differences in racial identity attitudes between participants in SC and TN. Results also indicated that the concepts of Ideology, Regard, and Centrality that the MIBI examines may be too complex for adolescents under the age of 15, and a new factor, Self- Importance, was discovered and study participants from SC had higher Self-Importance scores than participants from TN even when controlling for demographic differences. Study participants from SC also had greater variability in their Self-Importance scores than participants in TN. Finally, an interaction was found between racial environmental composition and gender pertaining to Self-Importance. Girls in SC had significantly higher Self-Importance scores than girls in TN.

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