The impact of family and neighbourhood on the academic achievement among African American teenagers

1.0 Introduction
Performance in school has for many years been closely attributed to an individual’s life chances. As the need for an individual to undergo advanced level of training to be able to sustain basic living become a necessity, the consequence of difficulty in schooling have become imperative (Leventhal & Brooks-Gunn, 2000). However, individuals do not attend schools in a vacuum as they come from families, neighbourhoods, and various life events that generally impact on their performance in one way, or another.
Currently, almost half of the school going teenagers are coloured. Over 70 percent of residents in large cities in the United States are also coloured (Williams et al., 2002). Based on this statistics it is important to understand the specific aspects of academic development of coloured people in the United States.According to ecological theory, the environment has a great influence on the development of adolescents (Steinberg, 2001; Ingoldsby & Shaw, 2002). As much as the adolescents make their own behavioural choices, societal structures and interpersonal relationships are viewed as imperative aspects that shape the adolescent choices (Leventhal & Brooks-Gunn, 2000). Adolescents growing up in the 21st century look beyond their parents and siblings for developmental support. Therefore, the concept of neighbourhood comes in when analysing the development of adolescents. The neighbourhood concept in this context refers to both home and school neighbourhood and how it interacts with the teenager.

2.0 Problem Definition
The issue of educational achievement gap has been documented by various studies (Gutman et al., 2002; Rankin & Quane, 2002). Unfortunately, most of these studies indicate that African American learners have the lowest educational standards in the United States (Moore & Chase?Lansdale, 2001). Empirical evidences indicate that in comparison to their white counterparts, the performance of African American children is below the normal standards (Leventhal & Brooks-Gunn, 2000). Many African American learners come from families that are not only economically unstable but also socially underserved. Several reasons have been linked to the poor academic performance of African American teenagers which eventually results to high rates of school dropout. Common issues that these teenagers face include racism, poverty, and violence (Brody et al., 2001). These issues affect their emotional and academic performance. Due to their poverty ridden home settings and surrounding, African American teenagers fail to establish a link between academic excellence and better adult life (Moore & Chase?Lansdale, 2001). The teenagers are also aware of the stereotypic approach linked to their race which affects their self-concept and ultimately educational performance (Gutman et al., 2002).
Consequently, it is important to establish family and neighbourhood factors and how they impact on the academic performance of African American teenagers. This position is vital in the context that the current understanding on the issue is limited and does not consider the modern-day neighbourhood concept, where the United States has embraced mixed racial neighbourhood settings in most places where African Americans reside. More so, most African Americans live in big cities, which expose them to multiracial settings that may affect academic performance of the teenagers. Specifically, it is important to analyse how parents, peers, close friends, classmates, and teachers influence the performance of the African American teenagers.
3.0 Research Aim and Objectives
To fully explore this research issue, the following objectives will guide this study:
To investigate the links between family settings and academic achievement of the African American teenagers
To examine how school and home neighbourhoods influences academic achievement among African American adolescents
To devise a way forward regarding family and neighbourhood in managing the poor academic performance among African American teenagers
4.0 Literature Review
Various factors have been linked to poor academic performance among students. A study by Leventhal and Brooks-Gunn, (2000) identified variables within a culture, a family, and the environment to greatly influence the academic achievement of learners as compared to the type of an educational program. The roles of social and individual support in education are influential in the academic achievement outcomes. The school environment communicates to the learners on how the school perceives them (Brody et al., 2001). A school that is known to promote collegiality, respect and values has students that are positively inclined to better performance (Gutman et al., 2002). African American learners record high levels of school drop-outs due to the possibility that the school environment does not support their needs. Consequently, the school setting as a learner’s neighbourhood influences the academic achievement of the learners (Rankin & Quane, 2002).
Studies have also suggested the existence of other various factors that influence the academic achievement of the learners other than the school curriculum (Ingoldsby & Shaw, 2002). It is essential to understand how these other factors affect the African American adolescent especially those that are facing academic hurdles. Peers have been identified to determine the teenagers’ deposition towards their learning institutions (Brody et al., 2001). The fact that African Americans generally have a problem with academic performance the role of peers may in most cases be negative as far as academic performance is concerned. For instance, studies have shown that the mere lack of approval from peers is substantive enough to negatively influence the academic achievement of the adolescents (Williams et al., 2002).
Furthermore, numerous studies identify parenting as a central player in academic performance of teenagers (Leventhal & Brooks-Gunn, 2000; Gutman et al., 2002). Parents that have supportive association with their teenagers tend to promote a sense of autonomy among the teenagers which allows the teenagers to not only explore their environment but also seek parental emotional support (Steinberg, 2001). Studies have also shown that the role of parent in defining the emotional and academic performance of the teenagers is greater among the minorities in the United States (Moore & Chase?Lansdale, 2001).
Another issue that was identified in the literature review as an influential factor for academic permanence among teenagers was the social support. Specifically, social support was closely linked to school retention levels for adolescents (Brody et al., 2001). Specifically four social factors are known to influence the academic performance of African American teenagers, namely neighbourhood, peers, parents, and the school (Williams et al., 2002).
This clearly indicates that there is a link between the research issues and the academic performance of African American teenagers. This study will try to provide an in-depth analysis of existing information on the research issue in an attempt to establish a gap of knowledge that the study will attempt to seek. Specifically current literature links family and neighbourhood to performance, but it does not provide the exact family and neighbourhood factors that have resulted to poor academic achievement among African American this will be the area of interest for this study. To be able to establish a comprehensive investigation into the research issue, it will be important to provide an overview of the general research plan that will be adopted
5.0 Research Plan
6.0 General methodology
To conduct the research successfully, it is vital to develop and abide by a working methodology to ensure the outcomes are worthwhile (Creswell, 2003). This research is an analytic in nature as it will involve the analysis of the existing situation of academic performance of African American teenagers relative to their homes as well as neighbourhoods. This will ultimately allow the investigator to draw conclusions based on these analyses pertaining to how much homes and neighbourhoods influence the academic performance of teenage African Americans. The research methodology that will be used will blend quantitative and qualitative research methods as summarized below:
Literature Review
The literature review will offer an overview of the research topic at hand using data collected from articles, journals and books. A literature review will be important in the comprehension of the background of the topic (Creswell, 2003). It will also serve as a base in aiding the methods employed in the research. Specifically, this will involve examining articles, books and any other literature that has already been published on the research issue
Surveys
Since the research issue involves analysing the public opinions, which is vast, survey is an appropriate method for collecting quantitative data (Creswell, 2003). This will be done through creating questionnaires. The questionnaires will then be used for collecting numerical data from the participants. The questionnaire will also contain a section that will be used for the collection of demographic data from the participants.
Interviews
To further enhance the effectiveness of the analysis, interviews of a selected few people will be conducted in order to provide qualitative data for analysis. Interviews, unlike surveys require a lot of time but provide more in depth data founded on opinions and hence assist in uncovering specific information relevant to the research issue (Creswell, 2003). Semi structured interviews will be conducted to collective subjective views of the study participants on the research issue.
A combination of qualitative and quantitative data collection methods will be necessary to provide enough data needed for the analysis to ensure the study arrives at a well informed conclusion. Consequently, combining all the data uncovered through the above methods, a data analysis will follow. This will be implemented through vigilant assessment of qualitative and quantitative data in order to reach an acceptable conclusion. Specifically, the findings from the qualitative part of the study will be used to enrich the quantitative findings (Creswell, 2003)
6.1 Research Questions
The above research methodology will be used in providing responses to the following research questions:
What are the links between family settings and academic achievement of the African American teenagers
How does school and home neighbourhoods influences academic achievement among African American adolescents
What is the way forward regarding family and neighbourhood in managing the poor academic performance among African American teenagers
7.0 Research Study Stages and Time Lines
References
Brody, G. H., Conger, R., Gibbons, F. X., Ge, X., McBride Murry, V., Gerrard, M., & Simons, R. L. (2001). The influence of neighbourhood disadvantage, collective socialization, and parenting on African American children’s affiliation with deviant peers. Child development, 72(4), 1231-1246.
Creswell, J. (2003). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative and mixed method approaches (2nd ed). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications
Gutman, L. M., Sameroff, A. J., & Eccles, J. S. (2002). The academic achievement of African American students during early adolescence: An examination of multiple risk, promotive, and protective factors. American journal of community psychology, 30(3), 367-399.
Ingoldsby, E. M., & Shaw, D. S. (2002). Neighborhood contextual factors and early-starting antisocial pathways. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 5(1), 21-55.
Leventhal, T., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2000). The neighbourhoods they live in: the effects of neighbourhood residence on child and adolescent outcomes. Psychological bulletin, 126(2), 309.
Moore, M. R., & Chase?Lansdale, P. L. (2001). Sexual intercourse and pregnancy among African American girls in high?poverty neighbourhoods: The role of family and perceived community environment. Journal of Marriage and Family, 63(4), 1146-1157.
Rankin, B. H., & Quane, J. M. (2002). Social contexts and urban adolescent outcomes: The interrelated effects of neighbourhoods, families, and peers on African-American youth. Social Problems, 49(1), 79-100.
Steinberg, L. (2001). We know some things: Parent–adolescent relationships in retrospect and prospect. Journal of research on adolescence, 11(1), 1-19.
Williams, T. R., Davis, L. E., Saunders, J., & Williams, J. H. (2002). Friends, family, and neighbourhood understanding academic outcomes of African American youth. Urban Education, 37(3), 408-431.

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