AbstractsMedical & Health Science

Under the Shade of Hopelessness: Future Orientation and Black Middle Class Youth

by Kristin Anita Hill

Institution: Vanderbilt University
Department: Medicine, Health, and Society
Degree: MA
Year: 2015
Keywords: Future Orientation; hopelessness; violence exposure; Black-identity formation; middle/working-class; upward social mobility
Record ID: 2061554
Full text PDF: http://etd.library.vanderbilt.edu/available/etd-03312015-135149/


Previous research in low-income urban environments led to the conclusion that the underachievement of African-American youth is attributed to their disadvantaged environment and lack of self-esteem. In recent years, however, I observed a similar underachievement and lack of future orientation, or the image one has for their future, in middle/working-class African-American students at Chute Middle School in the middle-class suburb of Evanston, IL. My research is unique in that it focuses on middle and working-class African-American youth living in a suburban environment and proposes a new perspective of future orientation as a summation of self-concept, perceived societal worth, life expectancy, and belief in ones potential for upward mobility. Despite residence in Evanston, these youth are still exposed to violence, both locally and nationally, which negatively impacts the development and pursuit of a positive future orientation. I believe a sense of hopelessness is cultivated via the influence of interpersonal and structural violence, invidious class-based comparison, and inequity on the formation of positive Black identity and upward social mobility. This pathway is further substantiated with psychological, sociological, and intersectional frameworks that accentuate the dynamic relationship between an individual and their environment, and the unique consequences of race and class relations. This thesis is a literature review designed to build a foundation that will support ethnographic research and field work of Chute Middle School in the near future.