Adults think that black girls are less innocent, less in need of protection and nurturing, and seem older than similarly aged white girls, which could lead to stiffer punishments in school, a new report said Tuesday.
The report entitled, Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood, also said American adults think black girls know more about adult topics and about sex than white girls of the same age. And those perceptions are greater when it comes to younger black girls ages 5-9 and 10-14. The discrepancy continues to a lesser degree with girls ages 15-19.
These results suggest that Black girls are viewed as more adult than their white peers at almost all stages of childhood, beginning most significantly at the age of 5, peaking during the ages of 10 to 14, and continuing during the ages of 15 to 19.
In essence, adults appear to place distinct views and expectations on Black girls that characterize them as developmentally older than their white peers, especially in mid-childhood and early adolescence— critical periods for healthy identity development. The significance of this result lies in the potential for adultification to act as a contributing cause of the demonstrated harsher treatment of Black girls when compared to white girls of the same age.
Simply put, if authorities in public systems view Black girls as less innocent, less needing of protection, and generally more like adults, it appears likely that they would also view Black girls as more culpable for their actions and, on that basis, punish them more harshly despite their status as children.
Thus, adultification may serve as a contributing cause of the disproportionality in school discipline outcomes, harsher treatment by law enforcement, and the differentiated exercise of discretion by officials across the spectrum of the juvenile justice system....