Violent behaviors and weapon carrying have decreased among African-American adolescents, but homicide rates continue to rise, according to a new report from Ball State University.
“Violent Behaviors, Weapon Carrying, and Firearm Homicide Trends in African American Adolescents, 2001–2015” is the first study to assess violent behaviors in African-American youth over an extended period, the university said.
“In a multi-year national assessment, we found that African-American adolescents who achieved very good grades in school were significantly less likely to carry weapons or engage in violent behaviors,” said Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani, lead author and a health science professor at Ball State. “On the contrary, teenagers who used drugs, alcohol and tobacco were significantly more likely to carry weapons and engage in aggressive behaviors.”
Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani
The study team used the national Youth Risk Behavior Surveys from 2001 to 2015.
The study found that among African-American boys and girls:
· Fighting in general and on school property had significantly declined from 2007-2015.
· The rates of carrying a weapon in general and carrying a weapon on school property declined for males and females from 2009-2015.
· The rates of carrying a gun in public significantly declined in males from 2009-2015.
· Adolescents had two indicators linked to the likelihood of carrying weapons: alcohol, tobacco and other drug use, and violent risk behaviors, such as weapon and gun-carrying. Cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine use were most strongly linked with weapon and gun carrying.
· Firearm homicides continued to increase in adolescent males. African-American males accounted for more than 75 percent of all gun homicides in adolescents.
· Firearm homicide rates among African-American teenagers were 10 times higher than White teenagers.
Khubchandani said students who get A’s and B’s are less likely to be violent.
“School engagement and superior academic performance in school may have a protective effect for African-American teenagers, especially males,” Khubchandani said. “Prevention of substance abuse, school-based and focused education for high- risk Black children, and better implementation of disciplinary policies in schools can certainly help save lives.”
Some of the adolescents involved are mentally challenged (depressed, suicidal and using drugs), come from dysfunctional families, and are victims of bullying. At some point, it becomes more than a classroom education.
“Teachers, parents, the state and law enforcement must get involved to help turn the trend. “We must make sure they are engaged in extracurricular activities and feel connected, Khubchandani said. “Schools have a responsibility in academia to ensure all kids get the same opportunity to succeed. If this behavior is not stopped early, it continues.”
Experiences, knowledge, and skills can influence the likelihood of youth becoming involved in violence, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Strengthening young people’s abilities to effectively solve difficulties that arise and their opportunities to participate in pro-social activities can significantly reduce the risk for violence,” a CDC staff member told Diverse. “One strategy for addressing these individual risks are universal, school-based, violence-prevention programs, which have been proven to reduce rates of aggression and violent behavior among students.”
The program serve entire populations of specific school or grade within the school and “focus on many areas, including emotional self-awareness, emotional control, self-esteem, positive social skills, social problem-solving, conflict resolution and teamwork,” the CDC said.
Khubchandani said the recent study challenges the myth that African-American children are more violent.
“There are certain risk populations, and those are more likely to be killed,” he said, using drugs and gangs as an example. “If they are engaged in extracurricular activities like (physical education) and sports, the risk factors decline.”
“I would assume they have to be connected to positive programs and not feel left out.”