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Running head: Self-Esteem and Academic Performance 1

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Self-Esteem and Academic Performance 4

The Effect of Identity on Self-Esteem and Academic Performance


This paper aims at examining the effect that self-esteem and identity have on a person’s academic performance. A case study of Blacks will be made, in the various factors investigating the various factors that affect them as people of color and their effect on achievement academically. Experiences, media, social upbringing among others will be seen as the factors that influence their academic performance either positively or negatively. Some of Newman’s expectation theories will also be used to further relate self-esteem and identity in the development of individuals, especially in academics. There will also be the examination of the various ways in which higher learning institutions may help in the improvement of self-efficacy of people of color leading to social harmony and academic excellence. Finally, the paper will conclude by summing up all the points discussed throughout the paper and emphasizing on the importance of self- esteem and positive feeling of identity to people of color, their academic achievement and social integration.


Attitudes in racial identity, especially with internalizing one’s feelings, have been connected to how a person feels about their academic achievement, self-esteem, trust development, avoidance of behaviors which can result in either a healthy or poorly constructed mental state. Self-esteem may be said to be a person’s confidence and satisfaction in themselves and also respecting their ability. Self-efficacy is the extent or the strength of a person’s belief in their own ability to reach goals and complete tasks. Racial identity may be defined as identifying oneself as distinct from other groups due to supposed physical or genetic traits shared by the group (Sullivan, & Esmail, 2012). For blacks living in the United States, there is a definite conflict between one’s ability and attitude towards educational success. An attitude is formed based off experience, but also his or her cultural beliefs about education and is value in life. In addition, blacks also may have internal or deeply rooted resistance towards education and might have negative attitudes about education as a protective mechanism: they might put on a façade to protect them from racial discrimination ant threats of stereotyping. This has led to researchers assuming a cultural bias and lack of interest blacks have in regards to academic performance. As a result, blacks struggle with developing adequate skills necessary to become successful. The racial and tribal development is taken as an important part of self- development of the children form the marginal groups. Self – esteem is also a determinant in the academic performance as children who perform well in school are seen to feel good about themselves as compared to poor performing students (Reid, 2013).


The purpose of this study is to examine the effect that self-esteem and identity have on a person’s academic performance

Past Studies

Most authors have emphasized on the importance of family values and parental attitudes as superseding variables in the development of self. The effect of school experiences, peer group acceptance and mass media also has been mentioned as significant factors in determining how the child views their racial group. All of these factors associate to and either negatively or positively influences blacks’ academic performance and even their worldview. Black children, like other children, have the ability and power to learn. However, their experiences and interactions with others appear to hinder them from gaining access to proper academic achievements. Thus, having a positive awareness of self is important for the further success of any individual student. (Bonvillain & Honora, 2004).

Quantitative Research

The findings stated in this research were obtained from the observation of African American students both female and male.


Both male and female Blacks were observed during this study. They were 150 in total, their ages ranging from 12 to 19 years with a mean age of 14.65. Questionnaires were issued to the participants. The participants were also given an oral interview. The sample consisted of 100 females and 50 males. The data obtained from the research was then compiled for the purpose of ascertaining whether racial identity and esteem had an impact on academic achievement of the test group. This was also for the purpose of measuring the feelings of the test group towards the rest of the students.


The aim of this research is promote non-discrimination among all persons, to ensure that people of color do not get affected academically, due to self -esteem and identity issues. This will also help improve cohesiveness and good relationship between all students, irrespective of their racial identity.

Researchers and persons studying identity developments have agreed that by adolescence, individuals become aware of the features that differentiate groups. These features include academic posture, languages, and even skin color. However, these are learned throughout our socio-cultural interactions and even in school. As a result, these features create opinions, expectations and behaviors that might reference an individual cultural being accepted or not. The strength of the reference group in shaping the identity of a person is related to the position of that group in the dominant culture (Bonvillain & Honora, 2004). For example, the black community is normally not in a position of choosing an identity; instead, they are forced to internalize one by the signals of the society. The society in the past has determined if the sub-group, and in this case blacks, is trustworthy and competent. As a result, there have been biases and stereotypes that caused damaged to the success of blacks in the academic arena. To further illustrate this point, the example of black males may be used. To a Black male, the societal discriminatory conduct and attitudes force an identity that makes his gender and race salient to them. This salience then commends contextually acceptable conducts: Individuals who are high achievers regularly experience difficulty integrating their racial, social and academic identities. The black male, even in his late adolescent stage of development, seeks to abide by role identity just like many students. That role identity shapes their present-day’s actions, an identity that continues to evolve with time (Reid, 2013).

Progress levels of sophistication along identity range may shape the reaction to stimuli, relations with other people in and out of his reference group and his orientation toward large intuitions such as their university. This may also be used in explaining Newman’s (2010) expectation of direction of change over the lifespan. Each stage is a reflection of attitudes along the range that are a representation of a process of maturation towards the achievement of a positive group orientation (Hughes, Manns & Ford, 2009).

In discussing Newman’s (2010) relevance of early experiences on later development, the pre-encounter stage may be used. In this stage, Blacks range from low-salience race-neutral persons and race does not have a big impact in their daily lives. This is an anti-black attitude pattern in which persons have internalized racist stereotypes and have either chosen to abandon blacks as their reference group or used it to hurt other black. The encounter stage is one, which an individual starts to question their self-concept in school, on performance of work, or an experience with the penal system (Bonvillain & Honora, 2004). The stage of immersion or emersion is characterized by the black person involving themselves in the black experience and secluding themselves from the whites as a way of formulating their new identity. In the last stage of internalization, an individual resolves their conflicts with the old and the new self and attains a sense of inner security with their racial identity. Their blackness is still salient, but it is strengthened by a conceptualization that it is more sophisticated, expansive and open. This is where an individual is willing to negotiate again their opinions ad relations with people of other races. Being more aware and settled in their identity, blacks can focus on important activities that aim at benefiting and referencing in a positive way his or her group within society: in fact having a positive image and sense of self will assist any individual in identifying more with his or her cultural sub group within the society (Hughes, Manns & Ford, 2009).

Independent Variables

Racial identity attitudes, or variations in the racial identity stages may provide explanations for why Black males avoid engaging with students of other races in largely white settings, while others maintain high levels of peer interrelations with white students. The racial identity theory suggests some blacks do not fixate on their racial identity as being a problem of succeeding in school and thus do not associate with other blacks. Instead, these blacks are encouraged by their unique potential and qualities as an individual instead of relating specifically to the group. The most confident students are seen to be content with their opportunities to interact with faculty members at school. This explanation is founded on the social cognitive theory and the Newman’s (2010) expectation of interaction of physical, cognitive, emotional, and social functions. Verbal judgments from influential persons lead to self-efficacy (Reid, 2013). It is probable that as students interact constructively with their faculty, the instructors consequently convey their high expectations and make an affirmation to their intellectual abilities. This leads to the building of the student’s self- efficacy or esteem (Bonvillain & Honora, 2004). Also, students who are efficacious have the tendency of exhibiting assertive conduct that may have a benefit in the university setting, especially during their engagement with the faculty. Precisely, students who are confident may be more likely to approach their faculty as compared to students who are not very confident in their abilities (Reid, 2013). Additionally, research on racial and self-attitudes and academic achievement has addressed the issue of whether strong identification with oneself and being Black is detrimental or beneficial for the academic achievement of the African American students. It is suggested that for these students to be successful in school, they have to disconnect themselves form the African American community (Bonvillain & Honora, 2004).

Learning institutions may thus directly improve the results of Black students through raising their perceived levels of academic self-efficacy. This may be achieved through the progressive provision of mastery experience and also by exposure to these students to success by use of different experiences such as role models. These institutions may offer affirming verbal judgments using the teachers and mentors. They may also assess and manage the student’s physiological and emotional states, which may be through counseling and advising. Academic self-efficacy thus plays a dual function that is, directly influencing achievement and also connecting positively with the quality of faculty interactions (Reid, 2013).


In conclusion, racial identity has been shown to affect black students’ social integration and achievement. Newman’s (2010) expectations of theory of human development have also been discussed in reference to the development of the black children’s attitudes towards their racial identity. Those students who are more racially resolved are seen to have a positive relationship between levels of social integration and academic success. Students who are more successful are seen to be the ones with stable identity and who have better interactions with their colleagues. Learning institutions are thus encouraged to take up measures to help students grow in their understanding of heir racial identity. This may be achieved through fostering the growth of these students form immersion to emersion and ultimately to the internalization of attitudes for the purpose of increasing their performance and the quality of their experiences in universities.

It has been seen that for students who have a higher internalized and positive racial identity, the impact of academic integration on achievement is more than for Black students who have a less evolved racial identity. Higher quality of faculty contact had a bigger impact on achievement as compared to students who had less immersion or racial maturity. Students with higher level of cultural influence or the internalization of attitudes gained form the meaningful contact with the faculty. Practically, these more internalized Black men with more stable identities would be more cognitively and emotionally not burdened to focus on their important activities such as their academics.


Bonvillain, J. F. & Honora, (2004). Racial identity attitudes, self-esteem, and academic

achievement among African American adolescents. Reports/Research.

Hughes, C., Manns, N. N. Ford, D. Y. (2009). Racial identity attitudes and academic

achievement among at-risk black female adolescents. The Journal of At-Risk Issues

Newman, ‎B.M. & Newman, P.R. (2010). Theories of human development. Psychology Press.

Reid, K. W. (2013). Understanding the relationships among racial identity, self-efficacy,

institutional integration and academic achievement of black males attending

research universities. The Journal of Negro Education, 82(1), 75-93.

Sullivan, J. M. & Esmail, A. (2012). African American identity: Racial and cultural

dimensions of the black experience. Lexington Books.


head: Self

Esteem and Academic Performance


The Effect of Identity on Self

Esteem and Academic Performance

Running head: Self-Esteem and Academic Performance 1

The Effect of Identity on Self-Esteem and Academic Performance


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