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Parent & Peer Ethnic-Racial Socialization: A Mixed-methods Approach to Understanding its Importance to Black College Students and their Psychosocial Health


This dissertation is comprised of two studies that investigate the nuances of parent and peer ethnic racial socialization (ERS). I focus on the dynamic relationship between parent and peer ERS by examining its frequency and effects specifically for Black emerging adults in college as well as uncovering the prevalence of Black college students’ appraisal/evaluation processes for such parent and peer ERS. These concepts were examined using a mixed method approach with separate analytical samples. Study 1 included an analytic sample of 252 Black undergraduates from various universities and colleges across the United States. In Study 1, I examined how peer and parent ERS messages (e.g., racial pride, cultural socialization, preparation for racial bias, and racial denial messages), conjointly and separately, impacted the adjustment and psychosocial well-being of Black undergraduates. Hierarchical linear regression revealed that Black undergraduates whose parents encouraged them to get involved in aspects of Black culture (i.e., parental cultural socialization) reported stronger racial/ethnic identity affirmation when they also received preparation for racial bias messages from peers. In contrast to this positive conjoint effect between parent and peer ERS messages, Study 1 also revealed that Black students were more likely to show less racial/ethnic identity exploration and affirmation when their peers encouraged them to separate from Black culture (i.e., peer racial denial). To add more narrative to these novel findings, I conducted a second study that employed qualitative methods to capture Black college students’ experience and appraisal of parent and peer ERS. In Study 2, I interviewed seven (n=7) self-identifying Black undergraduates from two University of California (UC) Institutions: UC Los Angeles and UC Davis. I conducted semi-structured interviews with references to recent, racially charged events in the United States to unearth the lived experiences and evaluative thoughts of Black students who had previously received messages from parents and peers about what it means to be Black. Findings were derived from five themes representing the content and appraisal of parent and peer ERS messages. Black emerging adults spoke more about their parents’ and peers’ messages of racial bias and racial denial than any other form of ERS, but when it came to appraising those messages, Black undergraduates were more inclined to either reluctantly accept or adamantly question messages from their parents. Black students’ critical demeanor toward their parents’ ERS messages had much to do with their parents’ tendencies to deliver messages either geared toward accepting racial mistreatment or avoiding mistreatment through racial code-switching tactics. Altogether, findings from this dissertation expand what is known about ERS communication to Black emerging adults in college in terms of who it is coming from, how it is viewed, and its effectiveness in protecting Black life.

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