Study Finds That Schools Don’t Help Black Teens Shed Anti-Social Behaviors

A new study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison finds that although African American adolescents are more likely than their White peers to be in the criminal justice system, they are less likely to be the subjects of research that examines how they got there and strategies for helping them get out of the system.

James Li, a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin and senior author of the study, says that “the results show no difference in the way antisocial behaviors develop in African American youths and White youths. White kids are more likely as adolescents to grow out of it and African American kids are more likely to fall into the chronic group.”

The study found that strong family support systems help both Black and White teenagers transition out of antisocial behaviors such as fighting, stealing, and vandalism. But schools were effective in helping White teens cope with antisocial behavior but no so for Black adolescents. The authors found that Black teens tended not to develop relationships with teachers and counselors who can help them deal with the problems of adolescents.

Dr. Li added that “if you’re an African American kid, you may not have the luxury of growing out of these problems like White kids, because you are more likely to get suspended from school, interact with police or go to juvenile detention. If you are in the system, it can be hard to get out of the system.”

The full study, “The Influence of Parents and Schools on Developmental Trajectories of Antisocial Behaviors in Caucasian and African American Youths,” was published on the website of the journal Development and Psychopathology. It may be accessed here.

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