Abstract: Examining the Relationships between Perceived Microinteractions and Adolescents' Self-Reported Grades and Feelings of Self-Esteem: Gender and Racial Differences and Similarities (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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590P Examining the Relationships between Perceived Microinteractions and Adolescents' Self-Reported Grades and Feelings of Self-Esteem: Gender and Racial Differences and Similarities

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
M. Annette Clayton, PhD, Assistant Professor & Internship Director, Virginia Wesleyan University, Virginia Beach, VA
Jennifer Murphy, MSW, Doctoral Student, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Background: Insufficient attention has been given to furthering school social workers’ understanding about the association between adolescents’ microinteractions in the school context and their educational outcomes. Arguably, school social workers need to better understand how these microinteractions influence adolescents’ educational outcomes in support of school social workers’ efforts to promote healthy youth development. Therefore, the primary objective of this research endeavor was to explore the relationships between different types of microinteractions, gender, race, and participants’ self-reported grades. Also examined were the associations between the aforementioned variables of interest and participants’ self-esteem.

Methods: Researchers analyzed School Success Profile (SSP) cross-sectional data collected between the 2009-10 and 2013-14 school years from students (N = 5,171) in grades 6 through 9 enrolled in 17 schools, from one urban and one rural community, in North Carolina. The SSP is a strengths- based tool that assesses student functioning within the context of their broader social environment. The 2008 version of the SSP includes 263 items that address students’ beliefs about their social environment – neighborhood, schools, friends, and families and their perceptions about their own physical and psychological health and school performance (individual adaptation).

Bivariate and multivariate statistical procedures were used to examine the relationships between predictor variables and criterion measures. The first stage of analysis examined the relationships between microinteractions, race, gender, and self-reported grades. Researchers then examined the association between race, gender, microinteractions, and self-esteem responses with participants’ self-reported grades on their most recent report card. Microinteractions are defined as small, often unnoticed, experiences with others that can have an adverse impact on an individual’s feelings of self-worth or sense of competence. In this study, some of the microinteractions investigated were being called a racial slur, someone discouraging you from achieving goals, and being suspected of wrongdoing. The relationship between race, gender, microinteractions, and three well-being variables associated with self-esteem (1) feel good about myself, (2) have confidence in myself, and (3) often wonder whether anyone really cares about me were also examined.

Results: Chi square analyses determined that microinteractions were statistically significant for both race and gender. Linear multiple regression of the impact of race, gender, and microinteractions on grades, found that predictor variables explained 2.8% (F = 23.02, p < .001) of variance in student grades. In addition to race, gender and microinteractions, self-esteem predictors explained 8.9% (F= 36.87, p < .001) in grades. These findings indicate that self-esteem, as an indicator of individual adaptation and well-being, was a critical predictor of students’ grades. Students who reported more microinteractions were more likely to have a lower sense of self-esteem and poorer grades.

Implications: The study findings support the need for greater attention to students’ experiences of microinteractions in the school context and their self-esteem as a well-being indicator, as our findings suggest that both can impact students' educational outcomes. Findings support the need for social work interventions for at-risk students that include peer group, school, family, and community level components.