Development and risk behavior among African American, Caucasian, and mixed-race adolescents living in high poverty inner-city neighborhoods

Am J Community Psychol. 2007 Dec;40(3-4):230-49. doi: 10.1007/s10464-007-9132-1.


Youths growing up in low-income inner-city neighborhoods are at substantial risk for initiating substance use, violent behavior, and sexual intercourse at early ages; these risk behaviors continue at comparatively high rates through adolescence. Hopelessness has been implicated as a risk factor for these behaviors. In this paper, we consider how race influences this process. African Americans form a demographic minority within the United States, but they are often the majority within inner-city neighborhoods. For Caucasians, the opposite typically holds. Mixed-race populations form a minority within both contexts. Using longitudinal data, we examine the relationship between race and risk behaviors in several impoverished inner-city neighborhoods where African Americans form the distinct majority and Caucasians and people of mixed racial heritage form a small minority. We also consider how race moderates the relationship between hopelessness and risk behavior. Our findings show that compared to Caucasian or mixed-race adolescents, African American adolescents are less likely to engage in risk behaviors, and that hopelessness has a less important impact on their behaviors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Minority Groups
  • Models, Statistical
  • Poverty*
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Social Environment*