Ecological factors and the behavioral and educational outcomes of African American students in special education

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African American students are one of the historically disadvantaged groups by the public education system. Related to this phenomenon is the overrepresentation of African American children in special education due

African American students are one of the historically disadvantaged groups by the public education system. Related to this phenomenon is the overrepresentation of African American children in special education due to disability diagnoses, which has been referred to as disproportionality. It has been hypothesized that disproportionality is due to poverty or a cultural mismatch between primarily white, middle-class teachers and African American students. Using a sample of African American children in special education from Memphis, Tennessee, this secondary data analysis explored the relationship between children's behavioral and educational outcomes and their environment, efficacy beliefs, and the impact of an intervention, the Nurse-Family Partnership. This study also explored differences in children's externalizing and internalizing behaviors by self-report, children's mothers and children's teachers. Using multiple imputation and regression analyses, the results indicated the following: 1) children's self-efficacy and number of hours in special education were associated with children's academic achievement, 2) mothers' and teachers' ratings of children's behaviors differed from children's self-report of their behaviors, 3) African American boys are more likely to experience acting-out behaviors, while African American girls are more likely to experience anxiety and depression, 4) children were less likely to experience anxiety and depression if their mother believed that she had control over circumstances in her life. These findings are discussed in light of Brofenbrenner's ecological systems theory and Bandura's social cognitive theory.