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Youth purpose and the perception of social supports among African-American girls

Publication Authors: 
Jenni Menon Mariano, Going, J., Schrock, K., & Sweeting, K.
Publication Year: 
Publication Journal: 
Journal of Youth Studies, 14(8), 921-928. DOI: 10.1080/13676261.2011.609537

Purpose in adolescence is linked to positive developmental outcomes, and yet little is known about how youth purpose is supported by people and institutions that occupy the ecologies in which young people are embedded. Little is known too about how African-American youths envision themselves in the future, and understanding the nature of their purposes may uncover critical information about these adolescents’ aspirations. Associations between purpose and social supports were examined in a sample of 46 adolescent girls in the southeastern United States (Mean age = 12.83 years; SD = 1.14 years) (African-American/ Black 78.3%; Multiracial 15.2%; White/Caucasian 6.5%). Qualitative content analysis of interviews identified five forms of purpose experienced by these young people. Surveys measured perceived presence and importance of social supports of parents, teachers, close friends, classmates, and school environment, as well as emotional, informational, appraisal, and instrumental support across these sources. Adolescents with more diffuse purpose forms reported greater social support from school, and in some cases, from teachers, than did adolescents with more complete purpose forms. The diffuse purpose form groups reported that school support was more important to them than did the other groups. Implications of the findings are discussed.