Report

Listening to Black Women and Girls: Lived Experiences of Adultification Bias

2019

Listening to Black Women and Girls: Lived Experiences of Adultification Bias

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This report was published by the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality’s Initiative on Gender Justice & Opportunity.

HERE’S HOW THE AUTHORS DESCRIBE THIS REPORT:

In June 2017, the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality released Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood, a report that presented the findings from our quantitative analysis of a form of gendered racial bias against Black girls: adultification. This bias is a stereotype in which adults view Black girls as less innocent and more adult-like than their white peers, devoid of any individualized context. In other words, adultification bias is not an evaluation of maturity based on observation of an individual girl’s behavior, but instead is a presumption — a typology applied generally to Black girls.

The results of our study were shocking: they revealed that adults perceive Black girls as less innocent than white girls as young as 5-9 years old. The most significant differences in participants’ perceptions of Black girls’ innocence appeared in the 10-14 year age group, with significant differences also apparent in age groups 5-9 and 15-19.

This report presents the results of our next stage of research. To supplement and enrich the quantitative data collected in our previous study, we conducted focus groups with Black women and girls across the country. The focus groups took place in towns and cities of various sizes and in different geographic regions. Participants ranged from 12 to more than 60 years old, and they were grouped with similarly aged peers.

Participants supported our finding that Black girls experience adultification bias. Further, they suggested several related factors that contribute to that bias, including the role played by negative stereotypes of Black women, as well as racism, sexism, and poverty. We are grateful to them for sharing their stories and their analysis. In the sections that follow, we highlight our key findings.

Blake, J. J., & Epstein, R. (2019). Listening to Black Women and Girls: Lived Experiences of Adultification Bias. Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality’s Initiative on Gender Justice & Opportunity. https://genderjusticeandopportunity.georgetown.edu/adultification-bias/

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