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A NOVEL CHARACTERISTIC OF ROLE MODEL CHOICE BY BLACK MALE COLLEGE
C.B. Jones, R. Davis, A. Harris, B.J. Bennett, K. Brown, P. Wood, D.R.
Jones, S. Spencer, L. Nelson, J. Brown, T. Waddell. Livingstone
College, Salisbury, NC 28144, U.S.A.
While investigating relational (social) self-concept in Black male
college students, we recorded a characteristic of role model choice that
may not have been reported previously. We studied a sample of 113 Black
males from 18 to 29 years of age attending a historically Black southern
college. Extending the work of Yancey et al. (2002), we investigated the
relationship between choice of role models and each subject's judgment
of his own attractiveness and the attractiveness of one of three female
standards: a light-skinned standard, a medium-skinned standard, and a
dark-skinned standard. Each subject's skin color was judged on the same
scale by one of two investigators. Consistent with "impression
management" theory (e.g., Murnighan et al., 2001), we hypothesized that
males' responses would maximize positive presentation of self. The
purpose of the present communication is to report that, in addition to
the three categories of role model identified by Yancey et al. (2002: no
role model, a role model known personally to the subject, and a role
model not known personally to the subject, most often a media figure),
13 (12%) of our sample reported themselves as their own role model. To
our knowledge, this is a novel finding.
Of particular interest, perhaps, to
those serving youth, including youth at risk, is our finding that
subjects reporting themselves as their own role model were
proportionately and significantly less likely to be light-skinned males.
Celious & Oyserman (2001) point out that research documents that, in
general, light-skinned American Blacks are advantaged compared to their
darker-skinned counterparts with respect to education, income, and
socioeconomic status. It is possible, then, that our light-skinned
subjects are more likely to have larger, stronger, and more cohesive
networks of social support and, thus, are more likely to have role
models outside themselves and that our darker-skinned sub-sample
choosing themselves as a role model is more likely to have more
restricted, weaker, or less cohesive social networks and supports.
Further, subjects reporting themselves
as a role model were significantly less likely to rate the dark-skinned
female standard as "most attractive." These results support the view
that this sub-sample rejects or ovoids those Black females most
debilitated by distinctions of skin color (Celious & Oyserman, 2001).
Finally, subjects reporting themselves as a role model were
proportionately more likely to rate themselves "very attractive" and
less likely to rate themselves "attractive" than subjects in the entire
sample. These findings may indicate that, if, as suggested above, males
choosing themselves as their own role model have less reliable and/or
extensive social networks and supports than males having role models
external to self, a "very attractive" self-rating might indicate a
higher degree of self-sufficiency and independence compared to some of
These preliminary results support the view that identification of role
models in young Black men may correlate with positive or negative
outcomes, as shown by Yancey et al. (2002). The potential significance
of the present findings is that a previously undocumented category of
role model--self--may correlate with restricted, weaker, or less
cohesive social networks or supports. Future research is required to
support our findings and to investigate their import, if replicated.
Possible implications for policy are:
target youth reporting themselves as
their own role model to assess the extent to which this trait
indicates deficiencies in social networks and supports;
allocate funds for continued research
on the relationship between self-concept and ethnic identity,
particularly as these variables relate to racial preferencing and
socialization, including "resilience" (see Miller, 1999).
Celious, A., & Oyserman, D. (2001). Race from the inside: An emerging
heterogeneous race model. Journal of Social Issues, 57, 149-166.
Miller, D.B. (1999). Racial socialization and racial identity: Can they
promote resiliency for African-American Adolescents? Adolescence,
Murnighan, J.K., Oesch, J.M., Pillutla,
M.M. (2001). Player types and self impression management in dictatorship
games: two experiments. Games and Economic Behaviour, 37,
Yancey, A.K., Siegel, J.M., McDaniel, K.L. (2002). Role models, ethnic
identity, and health risk behaviors in urban adolescents. Archives of
Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 156, 55-61.
Correspondence to: Clara B. Jones, Ph.D.; Department of Psychology,
Livingstone College, School of Liberal Arts, 701 W. Monroe Street,
Salisbury, NC 28144, USA; Office Phone:(704)216-6059; FAX:(704)216-6829;