Numerous studies document sex differences in African American girls’ and boys’ academic achievement and motivation, but little is known about how the enactment of gender, such as in the forms of gendered behaviors, attitudes, or personal-social qualities, is related to school functioning. To advance understanding of African American adolescents’ academic experiences, this study examined the longitudinal linkages between stereotypically feminine (i.e., expressive) and stereotypically masculine (i.e., instrumental) personality characteristics and school adjustment. The moderating effects of youth’s ethnic identity and school racial composition also were tested. Participants were 352 African American youth (50.1% girls; mean age at Time 1 = 12.04 years; SD= 2.03) who participated in annual home interviews. Net of biological sex, expressive traits (kind, sensitive) were positively related to school self-esteem and school bonding for both girls and boys, but youth with higher levels of instrumentality (independent, competitive) exhibited sharper declines in academic achievement across adolescence. School racial composition moderated the effects of instrumentality at the between-person level, such that instrumentality was positively related to school self-esteem only for youth who attended schools with fewer African American students. These results highlight the importance of incorporating gendered personality traits, rather than biological sex alone, into theoretical accounts of African American youth’s school functioning.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)