African-American teens’ perceptions of racial discrimination

A three-year study of African American youths’ perceptions of racial discrimination has found that many Black teens consider themselves victims of racial discrimination, and these perceptions are linked to how they feel about being Black, particularly their views of how the broader society sees African Americans.

The study, by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Fordham University, and the University of Michigan, can be found in the March/April 2009 issue of the journal Child Development.

In an attempt to further our understanding of racial identity among African Americans, the researchers studied more than 200 Black teens ages 14 to 18 who lived and went to school in racially heterogeneous parts of the midwestern United States. Based on the adolescents’ responses to questions about racial group membership, the researchers found that age played a factor in the young people’s perceptions: Older teens who had experienced more racial bias felt less positive about being Black. Teens who felt more racial discrimination were more likely to say that society viewed African Americans negatively.

“These findings have implications for parents, teachers, and adults who have regular contact with African American youth,” says Eleanor K. Seaton, assistant professor in psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who led the study. “They suggest the need to bolster African American youth’s feelings about their racial group membership, especially feelings related to feeling positively about being African American.”

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