Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls' Childhood

Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls' Childhood

Perceptions of African-American girls as being more adult-like and less innocent than their white peers may contribute to racial disparities in school discipline and juvenile justice, a report from Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality finds. Based on a survey of three hundred and twenty-five adults from various racial/ethnic backgrounds and educational attainment levels, the report, Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls' Childhood (24 pages, PDF), found that African-American girls were perceived as being more independent than white girls; as needing less nurturing, protection, support, and comfort; and as knowing more about sex and "adult topics." The "adultification" of black girls was most apparent in perceptions of girls between the ages of 5 and 9 and 10 and 14, and somewhat less so in perceptions of girls between the ages of 15 and 19. Funded by the Open Society, Annie E. Casey, and NoVo foundations, the report suggests that the phenomenon has led to assumptions of culpability, resulting in black girls being subjected to harsher discipline and punishment. To address and counteract this implicit bias, the report's authors urge better education for adults in a position of authority — including teachers and law enforcement officials — with respect to the "adultification" of African-American girls.