The Center for the Study of Black Youth in Context (CSBYC) will focus on research and action on social, psychological, and educational development among African American children and youth. The CSBYC has four major objectives: (1) to develop an infrastructure for a series of coordinated research investigations of the ecological, cultural, racial, and familial contexts that influence the development of African American children; (2) to provide training for early scholars, graduate students, and undergraduate students around skills necessary to do research and practice with diverse populations of ethnic minority children in diverse community and school settings; (3) to cultivate collaborative relationships and partnerships between the University of Michigan and local communities to inform current and prospective practice and intervention approaches for improving youth social and educational outcomes; (4) to serve as a resource and clearinghouse for scholarship, training, and practice approaches that can be utilized by scholarly and community stakeholders in the state more broadly, as well as among institutional and community settings nationally. To meet these goals, CSBYC investigators will conduct an initial research study of middle school aged children in four diverse community settings. The goals of the research project are to study ways parents and family caregivers socialize their children around race and to examine the influence of various types of parenting on child academic and social outcomes. Using multiple methods (surveys, family diary studies, qualitative interviews, and observations), the research will show how parents choose parenting strategies based on characteristics of their communities (e.g., racial and economic diversity) along with their appraisals of the racial, cultural, and class dynamics of their communities.
The CSBYC research will contribute to understanding of normative development of African American children within their varying family, neighborhood, and school contexts, which has received relatively little systematic attention. The study of Black youth from different social class backgrounds is important for a number of reasons. First, despite the growing Black middle class in America, a disproportionate number of studies have focused only on low-income Black children in urban settings and/or on high-risk youth populations. Consequently, race and social class often are confounded in research and in its application to practices/interventions to enhance youth development. There is less knowledge of family, educational, and social development processes of African American children across different social class groups and the implications of community social class and demographic diversity, such as Black families' movement to, and increasing representation in, middle class or suburban settings. For instance, studies show that parental education is one of the biggest predictors of school achievement among African American youth, yet even middle class African American students trail their European American counterparts in academic achievement. Such patterns suggest that parents of different social class backgrounds differentially negotiate the schooling process for their children. It also suggests there still is much to be learned about variation in family processes within lower and higher socioeconomic levels. By examining Black families from diverse community contexts, the CSBYC investigators will address important questions about the nature of development among Black youth in ways that can support the efforts of researchers, communities, schools, and families to encourage successful development among children and adolescents.