Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 48, Issue 4, pp 680–691 | Cite as

Gender-Typed Personality Qualities and African American Youth’s School Functioning

  • Olivenne D. SkinnerEmail author
  • Susan M McHale
  • Dana Wood
  • Nicole A. Telfer
Empirical Research


Numerous studies document sex differences in African American girls’ and boys’ academic achievement and motivation, but little is known about how the enactment of gender, such as in the forms of gendered behaviors, attitudes, or personal-social qualities, is related to school functioning. To advance understanding of African American adolescents’ academic experiences, this study examined the longitudinal linkages between stereotypically feminine (i.e., expressive) and stereotypically masculine (i.e., instrumental) personality characteristics and school adjustment. The moderating effects of youth’s ethnic identity and school racial composition also were tested. Participants were 352 African American youth (50.1% girls; mean age at Time 1 = 12.04 years; SD= 2.03) who participated in annual home interviews. Net of biological sex, expressive traits (kind, sensitive) were positively related to school self-esteem and school bonding for both girls and boys, but youth with higher levels of instrumentality (independent, competitive) exhibited sharper declines in academic achievement across adolescence. School racial composition moderated the effects of instrumentality at the between-person level, such that instrumentality was positively related to school self-esteem only for youth who attended schools with fewer African American students. These results highlight the importance of incorporating gendered personality traits, rather than biological sex alone, into theoretical accounts of African American youth’s school functioning.


African American youth Gender Expressivity Instrumentality School functioning 



We thank our project staff for their help in conducting this study and the participating families for their time and insights about their family lives.

Authors’ Contributions

ODS conceived of the study, performed the statistical analyses, and drafted the manuscript.SMM participated in the design of the study and interpretation of the data, and helped to draft the manuscript. DW assisted with interpretation of the data and helped to draft the manuscript. NAT assisted with data management and provided feedback on the manuscript.


This work was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, R01-HD32336-02 Susan M. McHale and Ann C. Crouter, Co-Principal Investigators. During the writing of this report Olivenne Skinner was supported by a post-doctoral fellowship from the National Science Foundation (#1714931).

Data Sharing and Declaration

The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are not publicly available but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Olivenne D. Skinner
    • 1
    Email author
  • Susan M McHale
    • 2
  • Dana Wood
    • 3
  • Nicole A. Telfer
    • 4
  1. 1.Merrill Palmer Skillman InstituteWayne State UniversityDetroitUSA
  2. 2.The Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  3. 3.University of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  4. 4.The Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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