Study Examines How Racial Identity Affects Self-Esteem and Well-Being Among Young Black Males

On average, Black males start puberty at younger ages than males of other racial or ethnic groups. Early puberty has been linked to risks for negative outcomes, yet we know little about how Black males navigate the changes in their bodies or understand their social identities. A new study explored how young African American and Caribbean Black males understand these matters and how variations in their understanding affect their self-concept and well-being.

Researchers examined associations between three pubertal domains (voice change, hair growth, and perceived relative timing of puberty) and their effects on symptoms of depression, self-esteem, and self-efficacy in a nationally representative group of African American and Caribbean Black males from around the United States.

The study, “Comparing Associations Between Puberty, Ethnic-Racial Identity, Self-Concept, and Depressive Symptoms Among African American and Caribbean Black Boys,” was conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan and Arizona State University. It is published on the website of the journal Child Development, a journal of the Society for Research in Child Development.

“Black males who adopt healthy beliefs about their ethnic-racial identities during the transition to puberty are likely to have better mental health and stronger self-concepts than their Black peers who do not adopt such beliefs,” says Rona Carter, associate professor of developmental psychology at the University of Michigan, who led the study.

“Greater attention should be placed on pubertal education programs that include exploration of one’s ethnic-racial identity to help Black males process the identity-related messages they receive while navigating the transition to puberty,” suggests Eleanor Seaton, associate professor in the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University, who co-authored the study. “Individual characteristics such as race, ethnicity, gender, and the effects of various layers of social context affect the degree to which experience or context affect the mental health and self-concept of Black males.”

Related Articles


  1. Question:
    Is a distinction being made between what is being called a “racial” identity vs an “ethnic’ identity or a cultural identity?

Leave a Reply

Get the JBHE Weekly Bulletin

Receive our weekly email newsletter delivered to your inbox

Latest News

Cheyney University of Pennsylvania Placed on Accreditation Probation

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education stated that the university fell short in meeting requirements in financial planning and budget processes and compliance with laws, regulations, and commission policies.

Two Black Women Scholars Who Are Taking on New Assignments in Higher Education

Penelope Andrews was appointed the John Marshall Harlan II Professor of Law at New York Law School and Angela D. Dillard, the Richard A. Meisler Collegiate Professor of Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan, was given the added duties of the inaugural vice provost for undergraduate education.

Tuskegee University Partners With Intel to Boost Black Presence in the Semiconductor Industry

Participating Tuskegee students will have a chance to gain hands-on skills in engineering design, semiconductor processing, and device fabrication technologies and an overall valuable experience working in the microelectronics cleanroom fabrication facility at Tuskegee University.

K.C. Mmeje Honored by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Foundation

K.C. Mmeje is vice president for student affairs at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. The NASPA Pillars of the Profession Award acknowledges remarkable individuals within the student affairs and higher education community who demonstrate exceptional contributions to both the profession and the organization.

Featured Jobs