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Study: 'Adultification' of Black Girls Leads to Negative Outcomes

A new study finds that the 'adultification' of black girls leads to adverse effects in school and the justice system, beginning when they're small children. (Image credit: Blue Skyz Miami/Flickr)

A new study by the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Georgetown University Law Center finds that the 'adultification' of black girls leads to adverse effects in school and the justice system, beginning when they're small children.

The study found that black girls are perceived as less innocent and more adultlike than Caucasian girls, especially between 5 and 14, which results in disparities in school and the criminal justice system. The study reveals that, among other misconceptions, adults think black girls seem older than white girls the same age, know more about sex, and need less support and comfort.

Attorney Rebecca Epstein, lead author of the study, indicated girls as young as five are subject to such misconceptions:

“Potentially reaching back as early as kindergarten, black girls are viewed as less needing of protection and nurturing,” Epstein says.

Epstein's team embarked on this research seeking answers to why documented disparities exist between black and white girls:

For example, black girls are five times more likely to be suspended than white girls and twice as likely to be suspended as white boys. They are about three times as likely to be referred to the juvenile justice system as white girls.

The researchers say this is a first step in officially recognizing and calling out the negative stereotypes and implicit bias surrounding society's treatment of black girls and women.

African-American girls are routinely treated more harshly, according to the report. And those in decision-making positions think black girls “should know better. They don’t need protection. … They don’t need a second chance,” Epstein says.

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