Academic achievement orientation of West Indian American parents and adolescents

Nelson DaCosta Small, Florida International University


Literature addressing academic achievement orientation of Black adolescents in the United States often depicts poor school related attitudes and adaptation patterns, low academic achievement, and deficient family backgrounds. However, some researchers maintained that certain Black immigrant groups possessed positive academic achievement orientations and exemplary academic achievements (Ogbu, 1991; Gibson, 1991; Vernez, & Abrahamse, 1996). In this study, I attempted to combine qualitative data from multiple sources (surveys, interviews, observations, literature, and document analysis), using standard case study methodology and the constant comparative method of analysis to understand the relationship that existed between the academic achievement orientation of a select group of West Indian American parents and adolescents in Broward County, Florida. The sub-sample of 11 families, comprising 15 adolescents and 13 parents, was selected through maximum variation sampling from a pool of 23 families. The findings were presented as a single composite case study. The participants possessed specific, longstanding educational and career goals for the children. The parents were deeply involved and were knowledgeable of their children's schools and academic progress. While mothers were the parents most actively involved in the schools, fathers were strong authoritative figures. Families evidenced a strong moral religious base with set rules of behavior, firm parenting practices, and established chains of authority. Family members emphasized education over material things; reading over audiovisual or social activities; family cohesion over individual wishes; and academics over extracurricular activities. The parents' strong positive academic achievement orientation was communicated to the children and reinforced by relatives, family friends, and others. In turn, the adolescents possessed positive school-related attitudes and attributional styles. While they admitted their parents were somewhat strict, they voluntarily complied with the rules and were highly motivated to succeed because they believed their parents deeply cared for them and that education leads to success and upward mobility. Each adolescent was pursuing an academic track and planning for college and specific profession. The findings support Ogbu's cultural ecological model (1991). I recommend these findings to teachers, counselors, administrators, parents, and others working with West Indian American families.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Educational psychology|African Americans

Recommended Citation

Small, Nelson DaCosta, "Academic achievement orientation of West Indian American parents and adolescents" (2000). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI9977474.