While violent behaviors and weapon carrying have decreased among African-American adolescents, homicide rates continue to rise, according to a new report from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind..
“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 study was published online in April in the Journal of Community Health.
“In a multiyear 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 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.”
The study team used the national Youth Risk Behavior Surveys from 2001 to 2015.
The study found that among African-Americans:
• Fighting in general and on school property had significantly declined from 2007-2015.
• The rates of carrying of 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 in African-American teenagers were 10 times higher than white teenagers.
“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.”