Date of Submission


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Department Chair

Robert A DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP, Chair, Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Yuma Tomes, PhD, Chairperson

Second Advisor

George McCloskey, PhD

Third Advisor

Andrew Savicky, PhD


One of the most unyielding challenges of the American Educational System to
date has been determining the unique factors that African American families have on the academic achievement of urban high school students. The purpose of this qualitative study was to determine: (1) what effect does the African American Family’s influence have on urban secondary students achievement; (2) what impact does academic achievement have on the life of an urban African-American student; and (3) what contributing factors stimulate academic achievement in urban secondary students. The African-American family and its influence on student achievement included the following themes: family and familial membership beliefs on the importance of education, parental roles and parenting styles. Themes that encompassed the factors leading to positive student achievement included: academic journey from elementary school to the current placement in the secondary level; students recognizing the importance of education; and teacher’s impact on student achievement. Themes concerning student resiliency factors were also discussed. Factors contributing to student
internal locus of control themes included: influential persons relating to student
achievement, student motivation towards academic achievement, student perception of success, stereotypes of urban students, and African American history of educational inequality and segregation. Finally, themes related to the influence of urban community on student academic achievement included: the urban neighborhood, overcoming negative experience impact of participating in extracurricular activities, and influence of religion or spirituality practices. The findings from this study suggests that despite being exposed to insurmountable risk from urban living, students are able to achieve academically with the assistance, support, and guidance of their families. In addition, students having experienced teachers who are caring, and who have high expectations promote high academic achievement. Moreover, student thoughts and beliefs regarding
their ability to achieve also play a role in their academic success. Student who are resilient and/or have an internal locus of control are able to cope with stressful situations. This ability to deal with stressful situations as a result of an internal locus of control manifests itself in learning experiences and/or motivation to achieve.