Date of Conferral





Human Services


Barbara Benoliel


Many young adult African American men living in urban areas adopt a style of self-presentation known as the gangsta image in an attempt to earn and maintain what they may perceive to be respect, self-esteem, and social status. While these young men succeed in earning the respect of their peers, they also may jeopardize their chances of succeeding in mainstream society by engaging in an alienating lifestyle related to their alternative form of status. The purpose of this case study was to explore the concepts of respect and self-esteem as defined by a culture-sharing group of young African American men living in an urban environment. Using the theoretical lens of Goffman's dramaturgical model of social interactions, case studies of 4 young African American males' experience of self-esteem and respect as components of social acceptance were explored. Their sources of teachings about respect and social position received from the authority figures in their environment, as well as the contextual factors that shaped their self-concept, were also delineated. The research used a qualitative, case study design. Data were collected from observations, interviews, participatory photography, and document review and analyzed by coding and concept mapping using Atlas.ti software. The key finding was that perceptions of self-respect were connected to ongoing negative relationships with mainstream society and law enforcement. This study contributes to social change by helping human services professionals to comprehend the meaning and significance of respect and self-esteem for this population. This understanding can then inform practices related to engaging and supporting the mainstream success of this important group.