College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Winter 3-21-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Bernadette Sanchez, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Yan Li, Ph.D.


The present study used resilience theory to explore relationships among perceived racial discrimination, ethnic identity, coping efficacy, gender, and various academic outcomes among urban, low-income, Latina/a youth. Although Latina/as are the largest ethnic minority group in the United States, they attain less education than other racial/ethnic groups (Chapman, Laird, Ifill, & KeweiRamani, 2011). Racial discrimination is one factor that may account for the lower levels of education attained by this group, and research has indicated that racial discrimination is associated with poor educational outcomes among Latina/a adolescents (Alfaro, Umana-Taylor, Gonzales-Backen, Bamaca, & Zeiders, 2009; DeGarmo & Martinez, 2006). Despite exposure to risk factors such as racial discrimination, resilience theory suggests that some adolescents with assets, such as ethnic identity or coping efficacy, can still thrive, or achieve success (Fergus & Zimmerman, 2005). Ethnic identity and coping efficacy are two protective factors that were hypothesized to buffer Latina/a students' academic outcomes from the negative effects of racial discrimination. Some research suggests that these relationships are significant among male participants, but not among female participants (Umana-Taylor, Wong, Gonzales, & Dumka, 2012). The participants in this study were 446 urban, low-income Latina/a high school students from a large, Midwestern city who completed surveys in both 9th-grade and 10th-grade. Structural equation modeling was used to test the relationships among racial discrimination, ethnic identity, coping efficacy, and academic outcomes. Results supported a protective model of resilience. Specifically, ethnic identity and coping efficacy served as protective factors by buffering the negative effects of perceived racial discrimination on some academic outcomes, including GPA, attendance, and extrinsic motivation. This study filled gaps in the literature by examining the relationships among perceived racial discrimination, ethnic identity, coping efficacy and academic outcomes among urban, low-income Latina/a adolescents over time.