A longitudinal study of a social justice orientation model for Latina/o students
Researchers have argued that whether Latina/o students and other students of Color resist their negative educational experiences with feelings of hopelessness or consider them challenges to overcome, depends on whether they have developed a Social Justice Orientation (SJO) (Cammarota, 2004; Diemer, 2009; Watts, Griffith, & Abdul-Adil, 1999). SJO is the motivation to promote justice and equality among all in society. The purpose of the present study was to develop and test a longitudinal model of predictors and outcomes of SJO among Latina/o youths, the SJOLY model. The constructs investigated were (a) environmental factors (i.e., school relational and language climates), (b) personal skills (English proficiency and Spanish language background) and characteristics (SJO and agency), and (c) social (i.e., community engagement) and academic outcomes (school behavioral disengagement, grades, and school dropout). The study was conducted with a subsample of Latinas/os taken from the National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988. Participants were enrolled in eighth grade (N = 1,472), sampled from different schools and regions in the U.S., and followed through three waves of data collection until the 12th grade. The age range of the participants at Time 1 was 13 years to 16 years (M = 14.46, SD = .65), and 49.6% were girls. The SJOLY model was tested using structural equation modeling (SEM). Results indicated that school relational climate was a positive predictor of SJO, which in turn predicted more community and school engagement, higher grades, and decreased likelihood of dropping out of school via its impact on personal agency. In addition, school language climate and language skills predicted greater sense of personal agency, which in turn predicted higher grades and decreased likelihood of dropping out. Gender differences were observed, as more SJO was associated with higher levels of personal agency for girls, but not for boys. Higher levels of personal agency were associated with less likelihood of dropping out of schools for boys, but not for girls. Implications of the study results for education, counseling, and research are discussed.