Capping Back: A Grounded Theory on African American Adolescent Males and Emotional Self Protection



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This qualitative study sought to generate a theory grounded in data to conceptualize the main concern of African American male adolescents about their educational experiences and how they resolve this main concern. There has been a proliferation of studies that attempted to address variables that are essential to the academic success of African American male adolescents. However, few of these studies have addressed the main concern that these adolescents have regarding their own educational experiences. To discover the main concern of African American male adolescents and its resolution, adjusted conversational interviewing was used. A purposive sample consisted of 17 African American male adolescents. A theoretical sample consisted of 8 adults who were either African American male college students, parents of African American male adolescents or youth program workers. A grounded theory analysis of the interviews revealed that the main concern was to protect self-worth and the freedom to explore authenticity when experiencing emotional vulnerability. Participants resolved this main concern by connecting with loved ones, friends, and supportive adults. The main concern and its resolution resulted in the development of the theory, Capping Back: A grounded theory on African American adolescent males’ emotional self-protection. Capping Back illustrates how participants, upon experiencing emotional vulnerability, are prompted to protect their self-worth and/or their freedom to develop authenticity. The subsequent protective responses are influenced by relationships with loved ones, friends and supportive adults. This theory holds practice and policy implications for Social Workers as well as educators who work with African American male adolescents.



African American males, Adolescents, Grounded theory, Emotional vulnerability, Emotional connection