College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Summer 8-23-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Susan D. McMahon, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

W. LaVome Robinson, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Nathan Todd, Ph.D.


This dissertation used the transactional-ecological framework along with principles from positive youth development literature to examine naturally occurring individual and contextual factors

that promote thriving among African American adolescents. Specifically, this study examined how religiosity, religious support, racial identity, and communalism relate to thriving. This study

also assessed the negative influence of stressors on thriving in order to understand how thriving manifests in the context of risk factors. This cross-sectional study included 152 youth

participants who were surveyed at five Black churches on the south side of Chicago. Structural equation modeling was used to assess whether the proposed model fit the data. Based on the results, it was concluded that religiosity, religious support, and communalism are significantly related to thriving among African American adolescents. Neither exposure to violence nor racial discrimination was significantly associated with thriving in this study. Findings from this study have implications for future theorizing, research, and practice. Overall, the approach to and findings of this study make a significant contribution to literature on positive developmental outcomes for African American adolescents.