26. Exploring the Impact of Racism on Black Youth: A Multidimensional Examination of Discriminatory Experiences Across Place and Time


      Black youth are disproportionally impacted by community violence. Experiences of racism and discrimination may confer additional stress and create greater challenges for youth attempting to recover following violence exposure. We know little about how experiences of violence and discrimination intersect over place and time as well how these intersections relate to changes in stress, post-traumatic stress, and safety. This study linked innovative social network and ecological momentary assessment (EMA) methods to elucidate how perception of racism may influence stress and perceptions of safety among Black youth following a violent event.


      This project engaged 25 Black youth (ages 14-19 years old, 58% female) who had witnessed community violence within the past three months. Using an intensive longitudinal design, we sought to understand how the interrelatedness of people, places, and time may impact youth's recovery following exposure to community violence. Youth were recruited in partnership with community-based youth-serving programs and agencies in Pittsburgh, PA. A baseline survey assessed experiences of discrimination (Experiences of Discrimination Scale), stress (Cohen’s global measure of stress), posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTS; Child PTSD Symptom Scale; CPSS-5) and also included an egocentric social network survey to identify key sources of support. Youth were given a cell phone with a mobile app, MetricWire, and were asked to complete EMA app-based surveys three times daily for two weeks about the spaces that they were in, the people they were with, and their current emotional state. EMA surveys prompted youth to report their in-the-moment perceptions of racism, stress, PTS symptoms, safety, and social support. A total of 513 EMAs were completed (49% response rate). Multilevel models estimated the relationship between participants’ perception of racism in a space and feelings associated with stress, PTS symptoms, and perceptions of safety. Models included both overall and momentary perceptions of racism in place to examine both time-dependent and time varying perception of racism.


      Overall, 76% of youth reported at least one experience of discrimination, with 36% reporting being called racially insulting names and 32% being hassled by the police. One third (36%) endorsed moderate to severe PTS symptoms. In multilevel models, youth who reported higher overall levels of perceived racism also reported higher levels of stress (B=.50, p=.001), PTS symptoms (B=.52, p=.001), and lower levels of perceived safety (B=-.50, p=.000). Youth’s momentary perception of racism in a space was associated with lower levels of perceived safety in that space (B=-.09, p<.01).


      There is sparse research on moment-to-moment experiences of racism and its consequences among Black youth who experienced violent events. Using an innovative intensive longitudinal design, we identified how being in spaces that youth perceive as discriminatory impacts feelings of stress, post-traumatic stress, and safety following a violent event. Interventions attuned to place-based experiences of discrimination may help to support recovery among Black youth exposed to violence.

      Sources of Support

      University of Pittsburgh CTSI’s Research Initiative for Special Populations(NIH/NCATS UL1TR001857) NICHD - Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA: T32 AA007.