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

Online Articles That May Be of Interest to JBHE Readers

Each week, JBHE will provide links to online articles that may be of interest to our readers. Here are this week’s selections.

In Memoriam: Roscoe Hightower Jr., 1966-2024

Dr. Hightower was a professor of marketing at his alma mater, historically Black Florida A&M University, where he taught for over two decades. He also served the university as the Centennial Eminent Scholar Chair and Professor of Marketing and Facility Management.

Higher Education Gifts or Grants of Interest to African Americans

Here is this week’s news of grants or gifts to historically Black colleges and universities or for programs of particular interest to African Americans in higher education.

In Memoriam: O. Jerome Green, 1954-2024

President of historically Black Shorter College O. Jerome Green passed way unexpectedly on April 8. Since he became president in 2012, the college has experienced record-breaking enrollment and graduation rates, created new academic programs, and established the STEM Center for Academic Excellence.

Featured Jobs