New study: Black girls as young as 5 seen as less innocent than white peers

A study by the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality found adults view black girls as less innocent and more adult-like than their white peers, especially in the age range of 5–14.

A study released today by Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality finds black girls are regarded as older and less innocent than white counterparts, a bias that particularly affects girls between the ages of 5 and 14.

The study says this “adultification” may contribute to the disparate discipline of black girls in schools and their harsher treatment in the juvenile justice system.

I am off today but wanted to share the Georgetown study. Longtime readers know I write a lot about troubling and persistent racial inequities in school discipline. Those articles are always met with skepticism by readers who insist black kids simply misbehave more. As one poster wrote on a related blog, “Blacks misbehave and are more resistant to any type of authority.”

Skeptics discount the research showing black students pay a higher price than white classmates for even such mundane offenses as dress code violations and talking in class. Devote an hour to looking at all the research. It is consistent and unsettling.

Here is yet another study that ought to prompt us to look at the role of deep-seated bias in how black children are treated.

Here is the official release:

The study, detailed in the new report, Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood, is the first of its kind to focus on girls, and builds on previous research on adult perceptions of black boys. That includes a 2014 study led by Phillip Goff that found that, beginning at age 10, black boys are more likely to be viewed as older and guilty of suspected crimes than white peers.

Authors of the new Georgetown Law report adapted the scale of childhood innocence developed by Goff and colleagues to include items associated with stereotypes of black women and girls. They then applied the scale to a new survey on adult perceptions of girls.  The findings showed significant bias toward black girls starting at age 5.

“What we found is that adults see black girls as less innocent and less in need of protection as white girls of the same age,” said Rebecca Epstein, lead author of the report and executive director of the Center on Poverty and Inequality at the Georgetown University Law Center.

“This new evidence of what we call the ‘adultification’ of black girls may help explain why black girls in America are disciplined much more often and more severely than white girls – across our schools and in our juvenile justice system,” said Epstein.

The new report reveals that adults think:

-Black girls seem older than white girls of the same age.

-Black girls need less nurturing than white girls.

-Black girls need less protection than white girls.

-Black girls need to be supported less than white girls.

-Black girls need to be comforted less than white girls.

-Black girls are more independent than white girls.

-Black girls know more about adult topics than white girls.

-Black girls know more about sex than white girls.

The study applied statistical analysis to a survey of 325 adults from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds and educational levels across the United States. Across the four age brackets examined, the most significant differences in adult perceptions were found in relation to girls in mid-childhood (ages 5-9) and early adolescence (10-14), continuing to a lesser degree in the 15 to 19-year-old group.  No statistically significant differences were found in the 0-4 age group.

Biases revealed by the study may shed new light on why black girls are consistently disciplined more harshly than white girls. The report authors point out that educators, school-based police officers and officials across the juvenile justice system often have significant discretion in their decision-making, including for minor, subjective infractions such as dress code violations, disobedience and disruptive behavior.

Until now, few scholars have thoroughly investigated why black girls are subjected to differential disciplinary treatment, such as:

-Black girls are five times more likely to be suspended as white girls, and twice as likely to be suspended as white boys.

-Black girls make up just under 16% of the female school population, but account for 28% of referrals to law enforcement, and 37% of arrests.  White girls account for 50% the female school population, but only 34% of referrals and 30% of arrests.

-Black girls are nearly three times as likely to be referred to the juvenile justice system as white girls.

-Black girls are 20% more likely to be charged with a crime than white girls.

-Black girls are 20% more likely than white girls to be detained.

-Black girls are less likely to benefit from prosecutorial discretion.  One study found that prosecutors dismissed only 30% of cases against black girls, while dismissing 70% of cases against white girls.

The report authors call for further study into the adultification of black girls and its possible causal connections to negative outcomes across public systems, including education, juvenile justice and child welfare.  They also recommend providing teachers and law enforcement officials with training on adultification to help counteract the negative consequences of this bias against black girls.

“These findings show that pervasive stereotypes of black women as hypersexualized and combative are reaching into our schools and playgrounds and helping rob black girls of the protections other children enjoy,” said report coauthor Jamilia Blake, an associate professor at Texas A&M University.  “We urge legislators, advocates and policymakers to examine the disparities that exist for black girls in the education and juvenile justice systems and to pursue reforms that preserve childhood for all.”

 

Reader Comments 0

49 comments
NikoleA
NikoleA

The comments on this post remind me of a sad reality today: Facts don't matter. It's how white privilege remains and an idiot ends up being President. 

Servus Mensch
Servus Mensch

Black men of the same weight, body shape, and muscular builds as white men are also viewed by society to be stronger. What's funny is that white men hold most of the weightlifting records and all of the strong man competitions. 

NikoleA
NikoleA

@Lee_CPA2 1 + 2 = pineapple. What does this have to do with the article? 

Admin1
Admin1

I've spent 18years as both middle and high school principal.I've been in eight different public schools throughout georgia, ranging from 95% white to 95% black. I've also spent 10 years teaching high school. First let's not put all kids into one group. Most are decent kids. However it would be fair to say that black girls are subject to more discipline than white girls. But that is because they cause more infractions, are rude and disrespectful,  and generally don't care.  But the question is Why?  90% of the ones that  I deal with have no dads at home. This is a major contributing factor.

I see this everyday. 

By the way I am seeing more white girls fight. In all of my years I've never seen white girls fight until last year.  A sign of the times?

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

These types of "research studies" crop up every couple of years by various groups who try to explain away bad behavior by blacks.  They would have us believe that thousands and thousands of teachers across America systematically discriminate against one segment of the student population and since these "studies" never look at the underlying behavior, they come to the erroneous conclusion that it is due to "racism", even ignoring that a significant proportion of teachers and administrators levying the discipline are themselves black.


A few years ago, a "study" was undertaken to illustrate how black motorists were targeted for speeding tickets at a much higher rate than their white counterparts.  Finally, someone got a radar gun and sat on the side of the interstate and logged ACTUAL speeding activity.  The result was blacks were issued speeding tickets in direct proportion to their ACTUAL RATE OF INFRACTION.

Baba Xigmadda2
Baba Xigmadda2

@MaureenDowney @Baba Xigmadda2  "With all due respect, Ms Downey" I am going to work on the assumption that you want to have a serious discussion that is focused on "The Problem" and thus "The Solution" .

You say the key issue is: "How Black and White girls are viewed when sitting next to each other in class".

I stated: 'Most Black girls in the State of Georgia/ USA' do 'sit next to White girls' in their classes.  Their 'injury' is CLEARLY coming from so other force that is beyond this theoretical 'preference' for White girls'.  

The 'scientific study' did not limit itself to people who have actually spent time around 'school aged black and white children' from which they can draw from their own first hand empirical evidence.  It then used these 'remote opinions' of 325 people to parlay their supposition into why black girls face more 'disciplinary actions' in school and the court system.    

Wouldn't it be more logical, Ms Downey, to have actual school teachers from "All White Schools", "All Black Schools" and "Racially Mixed Schools" provide feedback on their first hand interactions with "girls" to form a baseline for the study? Then have the searchers apply RACE to the data - after the fact?

The point that I noticed, Ms Downey was that in the plot line "The line for the WHITE GIRLS was flat across all age groups".   Is it YOUR experience that 'White girls" all act the same way through the various intervals of their formative years?   Well why did this 'scientific study' of 325 adults allege that this is so?
(WE) Black people want our children EDUCATED, yet it is clear that there is an agenda to use them as pawns in a larger set of political agenda items. 

The source of this 'scientific' research states that their agenda is to parlay this discussion into the larger issue of 'School Suspensions and Criminal Justice'.

It would be more logical to do a study in which  the LARGER POPULATION OF BLACK GIRLS who are never suspended or arrested  is used as the "Control" population - NOT "White Girls"

Baba Xigmadda2
Baba Xigmadda2

Dear Ms Downey, others:


Not that it matters - but my skin is brown.

You make the case that your goal is to advocate against racially disparate treatment of Black Americans in education.  

Why do you presume that "Racism" is the greatest factor in the disparate academic outcomes between Blacks and Whites?
Why do you presume that "suspension/expulsion" is the most significant administrative "attack" upon Black students?

Your summary of the study - and the study itself incessantly refers to "Black Girls and their WHITE PEERS".    
If you look through the racial demographics of student populations in various metro-Atlanta high schools - you will note that the average "Black female Student" has few "White peers" in their high school - as a direct reference - so the very construct of the study is questionable.

I did not miss that George Soros' "The Open Society Foundation" funded this and other studies - but it told me a lot.

A more logical comparison to bring credibility to the study would be the (so called) "Adultification" (a made up word):

* Black Female Students at schools with an 80% + Black students
COMPARED WITH
* Black Female Students at schools where Blacks are less than 10% of the school population


The majority of Black Americas do not have "Interactions With White People" as the predominate set of interactions they experience during the day. 
Why did you buy into the faulty premise of the study as "The Open Society Foundation" set out to prove that "White girls and Black girls - when judged in the same 'container' are treated differently?

Why not look at the 'Black Suspension rates for Dekalb County' versus 'The Black Suspension Rates for Gwinnett or Cobb'?

Astropig
Astropig

@Baba Xigmadda2 

"I did not miss that George Soros' "The Open Society Foundation" funded this and other studies - but it told me a lot."


Congratulations-You possess critical thinking skills and political filters that enable you to know when you're being spun,played,bamboozled or deceived. 

Good catch.
(Those are good questions,by the way)

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@Baba Xigmadda2 Not sure of your points. The issue isn't how black and white girls are viewed when sitting next to each other in class; the point is how they are viewed, period. The issue is whether these girls are stereotyped in ways that are harmful and limiting. 

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

@MaureenDowney @Baba Xigmadda2

No, the issue is not how they are viewed, the issue is their behavior.  You cannot talk about the disparity in discipline rates unless you include a discussion of the actual behavior that leads to such disparities.  This "study" is merely trying to excuse bad behavior by blacks by blaming on stereotypes.

Starik
Starik

This study reflects peoples' opinions. Is there a study of cultural differences between girls of different races, and how they affect behavior? That would be more useful.

DebbieDoRight
DebbieDoRight

From Maureen:  "What I prefer to do is steer them to the research, which is uniform and extensive, but most don't care what the research says: They have their minds made up."


True.  Very, very true.

alt.AJC
alt.AJC

Nearly 3 out of 4 black children now grow up without a father present in the home. As recently as the 1960s the opposite was true.

But where in the media do you see this crisis discussed or even acknowledged? Instead we have articles such as this one deflecting or suggesting that racism is to blame for the dysfunction inherent in single-parent households.

These children deserve better than the hand they're dealt by uncaring, absentee fathers and white liberals who find the topic "inconvenient."

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

@alt.AJC  That has nothing to do with the study...nothing but a deflection

DebbieDoRight
DebbieDoRight

@alt.AJC @BuckeyeGa -  (a) You didn't make a point.

(b) that "study" you cited is over 19 years old.  Try posting something recent.  

BLowE12
BLowE12

@alt.AJC "But where in the media do you see this crisis discussed or even acknowledged?" 


All over the place. The stereotype is that a black household with the father in it, is like trying to find a unicorn, if you let the Corporate Media tell the story.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

@alt.AJC

"But where in the media do you see this crisis discussed or even acknowledged?"

Because to do so would highlight the fact that the problems in the black community are a direct result of their own actions and dysfunction - not white racism, white privilege, unconscious bias, or whatever other excuse the politically correct can concoct.

This "study" is no different.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Not a lot of time for in-depth writing at the moment, but I do want to point this out to the reading audience:


Please be aware that pretty white women are given leeway over plain white women in this sexist society, and that both the plain white women and the pretty white women have been given leeway over black women, pretty or not, at least traditionally.  This blog's entry highlights that that kind of biased, hierarchical tradition of how we treat others still exists in our present racist and sexist society, which many, if not most, are still unaware.

alt.AJC
alt.AJC

@MaryElizabethSings 

Now that you mention it, I've noticed that the prettiest dresses in women's clothing shops often sell out fastest -- and at higher prices!

Could there be a connection?

Astropig
Astropig

@MaryElizabethSings 

" Please be aware that pretty white women are given leeway over plain white women in this sexist society, and that both the plain white women and the pretty white women have been given leeway over black women, pretty or not, at least traditionally. "


Well, thank goodness that you don't think in stereotypes.

TrueFan1
TrueFan1

want to change the world?....Than start raising your children!

TrueFan1
TrueFan1

black girls are exposed to a hell of a lot more than white girls.....white girls are more likely to come from a two parent system

DebbieDoRight
DebbieDoRight

@TrueFan1 - Anything FACTUAL in that statement you just made, or just a lot of supposition?

Marques Ivey
Marques Ivey

It is in my radar and added to my agenda for discussion with the committee. Thank you for sharing.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

What can I say? The same thing I have underscored for years, and that is that stereotyping any individual to a group's caricature is a destructive act against that person.


Disciplinary infractions in schools must be based on the individual's particular case, and people in authority must know themselves well enough to see into their own biases. If they are conscious human beings, with a conscience, they will not let their bias determine their disciplinary decisions for any given child, whatever that child's race, gender, or ethnic group.  The infraction, itself, must determine the punishment, nothing else.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

From what I have read (not the research that Maureen cites), this sort of sexual stereotyping of black females derives from slavery days, when all black women were stereotyped this way. Very destructive when it persists to the present day, as I used to tell my University students (many of them young black women)...and no compliment, though some may take it as such. It's a slave attitude.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@TrueFan1 @OriginalProf 

The stereotyping of black males as being over-sexed studs also derives from slavery times, and is no compliment either. Both derive from earlier beliefs about Africans generally, and are as false as any generalization about all human beings.

Baba Xigmadda2
Baba Xigmadda2

@OriginalProf 
You make no sense!!

How is it that the "Slavery Sexual Stereotype" survived this long but, FOR EXAMPLE,  the dramatic differences in "social dress codes" acceptable for Black Americans by Black Americans have changed so dramatically between the 1950s and what you see on "TMZ" today?

I am not sure that this message board accepts pictures to prove my point, but your argument does not stand.

Starik
Starik

@OriginalProf How much of underclass black culture is derived from slavery? Does slave culture persist today?

Astropig
Astropig

@OriginalProf @TrueFan1 

" The stereotyping of black males as being over-sexed studs also derives from slavery times, and is no compliment either."

So...Is that the reason that universities are trying to eliminate due process for black men accused of sexual crimes on campus?  Do the solons of higher education still carry those ugly stereotypes? Shame.

Astropig
Astropig

Baba-

I think that you will find that a certain mindset that is prevalent in this space is simply not accustomed to being challenged,questioned or corrected.These folks are much more comfortable in a "captive" setting where they can impose their belief system and biases on the uncritical,the credulous and the immature.Their worst enemy is a critical thinker that challenges them to prove their opinion as fact.

Astropig
Astropig

@OriginalProf @Astropig @TrueFan1 

You mean to tell me that you are not aware of the current backlash against campus Kangaroo Courts that make a mockery of due process for males accused of rape? Seriously? Have you been doing hard time upstate?

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

@OriginalProf

Wait for it, wait for it....

"this sort of sexual stereotyping of black females derives from slavery days, "

BINGO!  When all else fails, the politically correct always fall back to their default position of blame it on slavery.

weetamoe
weetamoe

I realize that this is just a blog and I began reading it with the intention of asking a question about the scientific method used. However reading the comments I must ask if Ms Downey agrees with the person commenting about "trolls" perpetuating "hate, "especially since the AJC 's featured opinion writer whose columns the editors link to in almost every section encourages his daily constant commenters in their consistent efforts to dehumanize readers who have simply exercised their Constitutional right to vote and to vote for the opponent of their favored candidate. Who are the readers you refer to under the collective "they"?

'

Barb Perry McWethy
Barb Perry McWethy

I am not pointing blame at anyone, first of all, but since there is no disparity in the 0-4 age group it made me wonder what might be happening in the school system to support these findings, and more importantly why?

Nichelle Young
Nichelle Young

Being black in this country is very difficult...... even for our 5 year old little girls.

Belinda Bullock
Belinda Bullock

I cannot begin to express how much this breaks my heart.

Michael Tafelski
Michael Tafelski

Thank you for continuing to highlight the irrefutable data that demonstrates the disparate and racist treatment of black and brown children in our schools and juvenile justice system. However, I am genuinely curious why you restate and highlight - yet never refute - the ignorant, racist, and entirely unsubstantiated comments of your readers? Certainly you recognize that these readers do not present an equivalent "counter argument" to studies like this and decades worth of empirical evidence showing the disparate treatment of children in school? Why give these trolls a credible platform to perpetuate hate and stereotypes?

AJC  Get Schooled
AJC Get Schooled

I have responded to readers on this issue and debated them. I have taken down dozens of comments that crossed the line. What I prefer to do is steer them to the research, which is uniform and extensive, but most don't care what the research says: They have their minds made up. I think it is important for others to recognize that viewpoint is out there.