Cultural Values and Behavior among African American and European American Children

Emilie Phillips Smith, Dawn P. Witherspoon, Sakshi Bhargava, J. Maria Bermudez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Objectives: This study explores the relationships of individualistic (e.g., competition, material success) and collectivistic values (e.g., familism, respect) with risky and prosocial behavior among African-American and European-Americanyouth. While previous work has focused upon immigrant adolescents, this study expands the research exploring cultural values to other racial-ethnic groups and to a younger developmental period. This study builds upon culture as individually experienced beliefs and practices, potentially espousing multiple cultural orientations and relationships to behavior. Methods: Data from Cohort 3 of a study of 219 urban, suburban, and rural children included African-American (42%) and European-American (58%) children, 54% female, ranging from grades 1–5 (mean age = 9). Multigroup structural equation models were tested resulting in a measurement model that fit similarly across groups (RMSEA =.05, CFI =.94). Results: African-American children reported higher levels of individualism, and African-American and European-American children reported espousing similar levels of collectivism. Children in higher grades were found to be more collectivistic and less individualistic. Individualistic values were related to children’s lower prosocial and higher rates of problem and delinquent behavior. Collectivistic cultural values were associated with reduced rates of problem behaviors, controlling for race-ethnicity, gender and grade. Conclusions: Results provide support for the assertion that youth espouse multiple cultural orientations and that collectivistic cultural values can serve as promotive factors for children of diverse backgrounds. Practice and policy should seek to understand the role of family, school, and community socialization of multiple cultural orientations and nuanced associations with risk and resilience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1236-1249
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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