The underachievement of African Caribbean boys has been the subject of considerable debate and research in education, but few studies focus on this group’s achievements. Difficulties associated with racial identity and masculinity are amongst explanations offered for African Caribbean boys' educational underachievement, and research has also implicated the peer group’s contributions to undermining academic performance.
This study explored the subjective experiences of seven high-attaining African Caribbean boys, aged 14 to 15 from one secondary school, regarding their perceptions of peer influences in school. Participants were given two narrative interviews, two months apart, about their relationships with peers and experiences related to "peer influence" and the impact they consider that this has on their education and attainment. Interviews also addressed the impact of family narratives on the boys at school. The interviews were analysed using Gee's (1991) structural linguistic narrative approach, which as well as helping to identify narratives also allowed analysis of how the boys performed their identities in co-constructing their narratives with the interviewer.
The findings suggest that the boys perceived peers to have some influence on their educational experiences and subsequent attainment, though family influences were stronger on the boys' educational values. Narratives espoused the positive aspects of peer relationships as being emotionally and practically supportive and helping boys' motivation to study through competing for high grades. Pupils used multiple and complex strategies to manage their relationships so that they continued to attain well. These included strategic self-presentation, deploying resources and utilising support from teachers and family members. Family racialised narratives were found to play an important role in developing racial identity and academic orientation. Implications for educational psychology practice and pedagogy in schools are discussed.
Robinson, T. (2020). Narratives of high-attaining African Caribbean boys: Perceptions of peer and family influences in education. Educational psychology research and practice, 6 (2), 1–11.