Looking Past Positivity for Indigenous Australian Students: A preliminary investigation of racial discrimination and the illusion of resiliency in academia

Year: 2010

Author: Bodkin-Andrews, Gawaian, Denson, Nida Craven, Rhonda

Type of paper: Refereed paper

At the beginning of the current millennium, a ‘new’ psychological perspective emerged in the guise of positive psychology.  Following this movement, a number of authors have emphasised that positive psychology may be a critical factor in diminishing inequities between the educational outcomes of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students (e.g., Craven & Bodkin-Andrews, 2006; Martin, 2006). An underlying assumption of positive psychology is that its constructs may act as agents of resiliency and strength in the face of adversity. Little evidence though exists directly testing this notion of resiliency for Indigenous Australian students, especially when considering more unique cultural stressors (e.g., racism). As a result, this investigation has identified a multitude of positive psychology constructs (e.g., self-confidence, motivation, identity), and sought to determine if they act as agents of resiliency for perceived racial discrimination and its negative impact on school achievement patterns for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian students. Utilising a combination of confirmatory factor analyses and latent interaction techniques, the preliminary results suggested that although the positive psychology constructs were associated with higher levels of achievement, they mostly failed to act as agents of resiliency against racism for Indigenous students (thus negating racism’s negative impact). As a result, any educational intervention for Indigenous Australian students must also address unique cultural stressors rather than solely focusing on a positive framework.