After-school programs are potential contexts that may promote positive youth development (PYD) and reduce problem behaviors among African American children. One way after-school programs may be associated with reduced problem behaviors is by fostering an affirming sense of identity. Prior research on racial–ethnic identity among African American children and adolescents has shown that a positive and affirming sense of identity is related to less maladaptive coping, yet little is known about how after-school programs may foster an affirming sense of identity and lead to reduced problem behaviors. The current study adds to this discourse by investigating how children’s connection to staff and peers in after-school settings is associated with racial–ethnic identity (as measured by racial–ethnic affirmation) and reduced problem behaviors. Participants were 186 African American children ages 7–11 (M = 8.44; SD = 1.10) who completed surveys in the LEGACY Together Afterschool research project. Data were collected at 55 community-based after-school programs. Results indicated that positive racial–ethnic affirmation mediated the association between after-school connectedness and problem behaviors, such that childreport of connectedness—that is feeling safe and happy in the after-school programs—was directly related to positive racial–ethnic identity and indirectly to reduced problem behaviors. These findings underscore the importance of supportive after-school programs that encourage meaningful interactions among staff and children that are nurturing and affirming to children’s identities.



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