New research on African-American young adults has now challenged the theory that boys become violent and girls depressed when faced with insurmountable problems.
According to study's researchers, the notion doesn't hold true for African-American youth who are in the juvenile justice system. For them, whether they internalized or externalized depended not on gender, but on what was happening within their families.
AdvertisementThe finding of the study suggest that more attention needs to be paid to the intersection of race, gender and family when it comes to dealing with troubled youth, said Stephen Gavazzi, co-author of the study and professor of human development and family science at Ohio State University.
"If you look at most studies involving internalizing and externalizing among youth, they generally look at white, middle-class samples," Gavazzi said.
"Most research has not paid attention to race. And when studies do look at race, they are not likely to look at family and gender as well," he added.
The study's results revealed that Black girls and boys showed similar levels of externalizing and internalizing behavior, once family dysfunction was taken into account.
In these families, boys and girls were more likely to show outward aggression if they lived in families with higher levels of dysfunction. Such a relationship was not found in white families.
This study, published in the July 2008 issue of the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, involved 2,549 youth who appeared before a juvenile court in five counties in Ohio.
The youth were assessed using a measure developed by Gavazzi and his colleagues called the Global Risk Assessment Device (GRAD). The measure is an internet-based assessment tool that asks youth a variety of questions to determine the risks they face for further problems in life.
GRAD asks about prior brushes with the law, family and parenting issues, substance abuse, traumatic events and a variety of other issues.