Development of Boys and Young Men of Color: Implications of Developmental Science for My Brother's Keeper Initiative

by Oscar A. Barbarin; Patrick Tolan; Sandra Graham; Velma McBride Murry

Jan 1, 2016

This report describes the My Brother's Keeper Initiative. The report summarizes ideas gleaned from developmental science that may be useful in efforts to reach five of the six initiative's goals: school readiness; third-grade literacy; high school and college graduation; and reduction of violence. The authors discuss features of the initiative designed to promote more positive outcomes and highlight the contributions that developmental science may make to each. Policy recommendations are provided and a discussion about how developmental science may contribute to national dialogue and policy formation.

  • Boys have greater environmental sensitivity than girls. In other words, boys are more responsive to and sensitive to variations in their physical and social environments.
  • There is a lack of consensus on the competencies boys of color need to be school ready. Families focus on one set of outcomes that are adaptive for their sons, teachers on another, and educational policy makers on still another.
  • Schools must actively combat negative cultural stereotypes about boys and males of color, particularly those that portray boys as threatening and incapable of either achieving academic excellence or benefiting from rigorous instruction.
  • Both African-American and Latino students often named their parents as the greatest influence in their decision to attend college and greatest source of help in choosing which college to attend. Guidance counselors, on the other hand, have been described as more harmful than helpful, often discouraging students from pursuing postsecondary education or steering them toward vocational training schools or less selective colleges.
  • Emotional support and acceptance appear to be critical for males of color to thrive in higher education.
  • Among the most immediate and essential solutions is to restore to juvenile justice the pillar of opportunity to recover from youthful mistakes and to engage more in truth and reconciliation oriented justice proceedings, formally and informally.
  • Research studies that move beyond posing questions about failures are needed, wherein greater consideration is given to explaining how and why males of color are academically and professionally successful.