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A study of cultural cognitive and physical competencies in 4 -year -old African American children

Beverlyn Cain, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The purpose of this research project is to expand Harter and Pike's Pictorial Scale of Perceived Competence and Social Acceptance to include physical and cognitive competencies that are specific to African American children. Two pictorial tests were administered to a group of African American preschoolers (n = 30) (Harter and Pike's Pictorial Scale of Perceived Competence and Social Acceptance and Boykin and Allen Revised Afro-cultural dimensions). Observations of seven of the children during structured and unstructured periods of the day were formulated into mini case studies of “acting up” or “acting out behavior” (Boykin's 1992 Prescriptive Pedagogy for African American children). Parent interviews explored African American child-rearing practices. Teacher questionnaires provided teacher perspective on children's physical and cognitive competencies. The results of the study suggest that Harter and Pike's Perceived Competence and Social Acceptance Scale can be combined with the Boykin and Allen Revised Scale to create a culturally appropriate scale. Mean and standard deviations in both instruments indicate that children in this study feel competent. The subscales attained adequate reliability using Cronbach's alpha level .79. Multiple regression findings reveal spirituality as the significant predictor strongly correlated on the cognitive subscale (Harter & Pike). The spirituality and movement expression subscales from the Boykin and Allen Revised Scale were moderately correlated with the physical subscale from Harter and Pike. The teacher/child correlations showed weak agreement between tested behavior of children and teachers assessment of children's cognitive development. The physical domain from Harter and Pike showed agreement between tested behavior and teachers assessment. The seven mini-cases showed four steps of teacher interventions in “acting up” or “acting out” behaviors in young children: verbal and or physical guidance, ignoring inappropriate behavior, time out, and removal of child to another classroom for part of the day. Movement expression, verve, communalism, and spirituality are concepts to include when assessing African-American children's competence development.

Subject Area

Early childhood education|Black studies|African American Studies

Recommended Citation

Cain, Beverlyn, "A study of cultural cognitive and physical competencies in 4 -year -old African American children" (2000). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9960740.