Partners, Parents, and Peers' Effects on African American Youths' School Achievement

Kenyatta Phelps, Bowling Green State University

Abstract

African American adolescent romantic relationships have received minimal attention in research, except for focusing on risk factors. Despite increasing interest in teen romance and outcomes, it remains unclear whether romantic relationships’ influences vary by race. Romantic relationships offer another lens with which to view African American academic performance, but the lack of research using African American daters has made it difficult to study this potentially important influence. Thus, using data from the Toledo Adolescent Research Study (n=848), I ask whether romantic relationship variables influence school grades and school engagement. In addition, are these relationships conditional on race? Finally, do separate models examining the influence of romantic relationships on the dependent variables produce different results for African Americans and Anglos? The major findings from this study suggest that partners’ school grades, perceptions of partners as caring and trusting, partners’ academic orientation, and sex with the partner predict school grades and school engagement. Multiple regression models using interaction effects find minimal significant differences with respect to the influence of romantic relationships on adolescents' academic outcomes. Examining models run separately by race, I find that partners’ school grades, sex with partner, and dating engagement predict school grades for Anglos; but none of the romantic relationship variables predict school grades for African Americans. However, sex with the partner predicts school engagement for African Americans; whereas partners’ grades, partners’ academic orientation, sex with the partner, and the perception of the partner as caring and trusting predict school engagement for Anglos.