Date of Award

Summer 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Edwards, Lisa M.

Second Advisor

Burkard, Alan W.

Third Advisor

Fox, Robert A.


African American youth have historically been disproportionately affected by an array of environmental stressors that have put them at higher risk for poor adjustment outcomes (Adams III et al., 2003; Mcloyd, 1990). Despite their hardships, not all of these youth fall victim to negative environmental influences (Miller & MacIntosh, 1999). Many exceed expectations and their lives take positive trajectories that lead to positive adaptation (Hunter, 2012; Miller & MacIntosh, 1999). This positive adaptation in spite of significant risk is referred to as resilience (Cicchetti, 2010). While the importance of resilience has been well documented in European Americans, the majority of the scholarship on resilience has ignored African American youth. Therefore, little is known about the factors that contribute to resilience in this population. The literature has suggested that one source of resilience is the construct of hope (Ong, Edwards, & Bergeman, 2006). Hope, as conceptualized by C.R. Snyder (1991), consists of “a cognitive set that is based on a reciprocally-derived sense of successful agency (goal-directed determination) and pathways (planning to meet goals)” (p. 571). Hope has been linked to several positive outcomes in adolescents, but research focused on hope and African American youth is limited. Moreover, there are no published studies that have investigated hope as a resilience factor with African American youth. Therefore, more needs to be understood about how hope may support resilience in this population. The purpose of this study was to explore how resilient African American youth use hope in their lives. Grounded Theory research methodology (Strauss & Corbin, 1990) was used to analyze this construct from the perspective of African American high school students. Seventeen adolescents (5 male, 12 female) participated in individual interviews where they were asked to discuss goals as well as how they generated pathways and maintained movement towards their pursuits in the face of obstacles. Results revealed that participants used hope to: (a) facilitate academic and long-term goals, (b) formulate goals influenced by family role models as well as aspirations for an improved quality of life, and (c) call upon multiple support systems (e.g., family, friends, teachers) and use personal coping strategies (e.g., perseverance) to combat a variety of obstacles (e.g., racial discrimination, procrastination). Additionally, participants also offered ideas for other youth to reach their goals. Limitations of the study, as well as implications of the present study, and future directions for research are also discussed.