The Unguided Journey: The Impact of Racial Oppression on the Career Development Process of African-American Emerging Adults


Fawn Robinson

Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 1-1-2015


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Counseling, Psychology, & Special Education


School of Education

Committee Chair

Louis Gregoire

Committee Member

Waganesh Zeleke

Committee Member

Scott Graves


African-Americans, Counseling, Critical Race Theory, Emerging Adulthood, Racial Oppression, Social Cognitive Career Theory


Research has shown that the career development of African-American emerging adults (18-25 years old) is shaped by their experience related to racial stressors, community hardships, and lack of resources (Lease, 2006; Lopez & Ann-Yi, 2006; Powell, 1990). This study, using a phenomenological-oriented case study, examines the impact of racial oppression on the career development of African-American emerging adults residing in economically distressed communities. It is essential to understand the impact of racially-driven experiences to understand the psychological mindset, attitudes, and actions of African-Americans. In Social Cognitive Career theory, culture, environment, and historical experiences are examined and the realities of the person are significant in understanding career development. Therefore, this study focuses on African-American emerging adults' personal experience on racial oppression, culture, and lifestyle and the influence of their experience on their career development.

The principal aims of this study are (a) to explore African-American emerging adults' experience on racial oppression, (b) to investigate the impact of racial oppression on their career development, and (c) to seek support strategies, which facilitate them to be effective in their career development. This case study was conducted with six African-American emerging adults, using in-depth interview, demographic survey questionnaire, and career genogram assessment. A conceptual model was developed to capture the process and outcome of the racial oppression on the career development of emerging adults based on the framework of Bronfenbrenner's Bioecological Model of Development (1977) and Cross's Model of Psychological Nigrescence (1971; 1991).

The findings of this research shows: a) African-American emerging adults want to be acknowledged for their achievement more than their racial identity; b) they avoid racially-driven negativity to focus on improving their socioeconomic status; c) due to environmental influences, they are at-risk for internalizing negative thoughts and beliefs about themselves and their ability to achieve their long-term goals; and d) mentorships, career education, and counseling services can be beneficial for African-American emerging adults. This study demonstrates opportunities for practical implications in the creation of school and community-based career development programs, counselor training programs, and research. Finally, this study addressed some of its own limitations and identified some recommendation for future research.





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