Trending Topics

‘Adultification Bias’: Investigation Finds Most Children Subjected to Police Violence Are Black Boys and Girls

Black girls are at an increased risk of being harmed by police officers, an investigation by the social justice-focused newsroom The Marshall Project has found. The findings mirror data uncovered by previous studies that show that Black children in general are more likely to be the target of police violence than children of other races.

The investigation included an analysis of demographic and use-of-force data from six police departments and found that the majority of the 4,000 children subjected to police violence between 2015 and 2020 were Black. About one-fifth of the children were Back girls while three percent were white girls.

Two fourth grade students work on their laptops while sitting together on the classroom floor./Getty

In New Orleans, every girl included in the database who had been subjected to physical force was Black. The New Orleans Police Department told The Marshall Project in a statement that all but one of the incidents “involved lower levels of force (Hands, Takedown, Firearm Pointing, etc.) used against the juveniles.”

In cities like Chicago, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Columbus and Portland, Black girls made up the overwhelming majority of girls involved in use-of-force incidents with police.

More than half of the 4,000 children impacted by police violence in the investigation were Black boys, at a count of 2,200.

Studies have routinely shown that both Black girls and boys are seen as older than their same-age peers. Research published by the American Psychological Association found that Black boys as young as 10 years old are seen as being responsible for their actions while white boys of the same age are still viewed as generally innocent children.

In 2017 and 2019, Georgetown University’s Center on Poverty and Inequality found that Black girls are more likely to be subjected to “adultification bias.” Research showed that Black girls as young as five are assumed to need less protection and nurturing than white girls of the same age.

The APA study found that, among police officers in urban areas, overestimating a person’s age based on racial stereotypes was associated with dehumanizing stereotypes, which were then linked to increased violent encounters with Black children in custody.

The New York Times reported in 2020 that racial bias against Black girls and boys also extends to the classroom.

Although Black boys are more likely than all other children to face discipline through suspensions, expulsions and school arrests, the disparity in disciplinary action between Black and white girls is larger than that between Black and white boys.

The paper found that in New York City, Black girls were 11 times more likely to be suspended than their white peers.

“Our deeply embedded biases about Black children being dangerous applies both to boys and girls, and I think we forget that,” said Kristin Henning, a Georgetown Law professor. “We wouldn’t even think about stopping a white girl in quite the way we stop a Black girl.”

Back to top