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Affiliation and athletic participation among African-American university students: An exploratory study

Susan Elizabeth Flood, University of Massachusetts Amherst


African-American students commonly experience many personal difficulties while attending predominantly Caucasian universities. According to the literature, these students often report feelings of isolation and alienation, and have comparatively high attrition rates, even when compared with members of other minority groups. Researchers have found that for African-American students, the experience of affiliation counters feelings of isolation. Participation in athletics is one way for students to feel that they are important members of the university community. This study was a qualitative investigation of small samples of African-American and Caucasian athletes and nonathletes at a large, public, predominantly Caucasian university. Particular attention was paid to African-American students and the relationship between athletic participation and feelings of affiliation within the university community. Students participated in a semi-structured interview, completed The Participation Motivation Questionnaire, The Collective Self-Esteem Survey, and the Revised UCLA Loneliness Scale, and responded to selected stimuli from the T.A.T and R.A.T.C. For all of the athletically involved individuals in this study, regardless of race, athletic participation has been important throughout life. These students view their childhood athletic involvement as having provided a valuable and enjoyable learning experience in which they increased their self-awareness and self-confidence, and in which they developed and used skills in cooperation and competition. At the university, students of both races acquired valuable skills and insight that they believed would be useful in their lives after college. For African-American students who experienced feelings of alienation at the university, athletics gave them a peer group in which they could feel safe and accepted. Several of the African-American students spoke about negative experiences before college associated with their being visibly distinct from the majority. Athletic participation gave these students a way to be visible in a positive way, and to feel like important members of the larger university community.

Subject Area

Clinical psychology|Social psychology|Black studies|Ethnic studies|African American Studies

Recommended Citation

Flood, Susan Elizabeth, "Affiliation and athletic participation among African-American university students: An exploratory study" (1997). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9737525.