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Study Says Black Boys Perceived as Older and More Intimidating Than White Boys

By Yolanda Spivey

A new study published by the American Psychological Association (APA) confirmed what we all have suspected for years when it comes to Black boys—that they are viewed as older and less innocent than their white counterparts.  The research also points out they are more likely “perceived” to be guilty and face a far greater amount of police violence when accused of a crime.

The APA conducted two separate studies to come up with their conclusions.  In the first study, they analyzed data from 176 police officers who were, on average, 37 year old white males.  They all had experience working in predominately urban areas.  To test for prejudice, the officers were given questionnaires with statements such as “It is likely that Blacks will bring violence to neighborhoods when they move in.”  The researchers also viewed the personnel records of the officers and found that those who dehumanized Blacks on their questionnaires were more likely to use excessive force against Black children.

In the second study conducted, the APA examined the results of 264 white female undergraduate students from public universities around the United States.  The experiment showed that they viewed all children, regardless of race as innocent up until the age of 9.  But at the age of 10 and beyond, they considered Black children less innocent than children of other races.  The study also showed the participants overestimating the ages of Black children by an average of 4.5 years, and often associated Blacks with apes.

Mathew Jackson, PhD, co-author of the study stated, “The evidence shows that perceptions of the essential nature of children can be affected by race, and for black children, this can mean they lose the protection afforded by assumed childhood innocence well before they become adults.”  He further said, “With the average age overestimation for black boys exceeding four-and-a-half years, in some cases, black children may be viewed as adults when they are just 13 years old.”

As an author. I usually don’t give my opinion, but I must.  It’s no wonder why in certain instances news outlets referred to Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis as “men” when describing them–when in essence, they were just young teenagers.  If Black boys are seen as older, then society does not see their innocence, therefore bypassing the need to protect them.  They also have a further burden of being seen as more responsible for their actions when their white counterparts are seen as not being responsible for theirs.

For a full transcript of the study, you can visit APA Public Affairs Office at http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/psp-a0035663.pdf.

Yolanda Spivey writes on a variety of topics and can be reached at [email protected]. You can also visit her Facebook page

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7 thoughts on “Study Says Black Boys Perceived as Older and More Intimidating Than White Boys

  1. Jessica

    Throughout the history of advertising, black children have been presented as black adults in a child’s body. Notice that in TV ads, often times a black baby boy will be presented with a cocky adult smart mouth. While the same age white boy baby is present as cute and adorable.

    The language that the white press uses to describe black adolescents is different that it uses to describe white adolescents. They invariably refer to the black adolescent as “a man”, while they will repeatedly refer to the white adolescent as “the teen or a teen.”

    Over the past 30 years, the black preteen and teen have been consistently presented as “the angry thug” who lethally threatens both black people and whites.

    The hip-hop culture has done more to present black preteens and teens as criminals who practice “the thug life; to the world. Hip-hop culture has also debased the image of black girls and women to the world, by routinely referring to them as “bitches, hooch-mommas, and hoes.”. No other group of people has done more to harm their own image and that of their women than misogynistic black male rappers.

    Reply
  2. Greg Peniston

    unfortunately explains a lot, but doesn’t ease the pain…knowing that too many will use this perception against us…

    Reply
  3. Nat Turner

    The question is constantly asked,
    “where will it end, will it ever stop ?”
    Generations of youth needlessly murdered or imprisoned,
    aside from eternal ghettoization.
    Make some noise make America listen,
    If African Americans cannot share the American dream, then
    It’s either Repatriate with full Reparations,
    or America’s going to have to give up some states,
    for the Black African American Republic.

    Reply
  4. blkfootblaque

    The researchers also viewed the personnel records of the officers and found that those who dehumanized Blacks on their questionnaires were more likely to use excessive force against Black children.

    Reply
  5. A. G.

    I find that survey very odd due to the fact that our youth look so much younger than White boys, they need to come up with a better reason than this. Maybe we just have a bunch of chicken cops on the beat anymore and then you throw in the racist cops, and that just about sums it up in my opinion!

    Reply
  6. ...

    Actually, they DO look older than white boys during the early years, because blacks go through puberty earlier than whites. Even before puberty, black premature babies out survive white premature babies because they develop faster physically even in utero. It’s only later into adulthood that they start aging better than whites, thus looking younger. Perhaps part of the discrimination does stem from people being less sure of their age, it’s too easy to overestimate their age when they’re young, and underestimate their age when they’re older. People like to have things easily categorized accurately. Sure, girls mature faster than boys, but girls, due to less physical strength and lower incarceration rates, are not perceived as very threatening compared to guys. Males, on the other hand, worry people, that’s one reason males tend to mature slower physically, so that they don’t face physical competition and fights from other males until their muscles develop further. Muscles take longer to develop in humans than fat does, so a youthful look in the tween and teens years benefits males. A mature look at a young age does not, and a sprightly fit appearance in old age may not, either, if people still perceive such male as a safety risk to others.

    Reply
  7. ...

    But you know what? In spite of how much these things are a part of human nature, I still think that they’re wrong. All prejudice, even based on human nature, is wrong. I say judge by character, not outward characteristics. It’s something we all have to fight to maintain a better world.

    Reply

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