Violent Behaviors among African-American Adolescents

By Garrett, Darhyl | Adolescence, Spring 1995 | Go to article overview

Violent Behaviors among African-American Adolescents


Garrett, Darhyl, Adolescence


OVERVIEW

Violent behaviors among African-American adolescents, has been an ongoing phenomenon for the past three decades. For example, a newspaper article entitled "Neighborhood Mourns Feud's Mistaken Victim," portrayed a fourteen-year-old African-American male who was gunned down by other African-American adolescents (Schaefer, 1992). Another newspaper article in the Detroit Free Press (1992) published the Detroit "most wanted" list which contained the names of two adolescents wanted for murder.

According to Glass (1990), Wayne County Probate Officer, African-American adolescents committed more violent acts in that county than other adolescent populations. For example, in 1987, they committed 70% of 9,738 reported violent acts. These acts included murder, assault with the intent to murder, assault with the intent to do great bodily harm, and carrying a concealed weapon. Other statistics showed that from 1988 to 1990 there were a total of 36,438 violent acts committed by adolescents in Wayne County. Once again, approximately 70% of these acts were committed by African-American adolescents (Glass, 1990).

This paper explores the development of behaviors by using Erik Erikson's psychosocial developmental theory with emphasis on adolescents. Factors that appear to be contributing to these violent acts, and studies of African-American adolescent violence is examined, and suggestions offered on how to provide treatment to the violent AfricanAmerican adolescent.

Psychosocial Development

According to Erikson (1950, 1963) there are eight developmental stages of human development. He postulated that these stages occur in sequence, from birth to late adulthood. Additionally, he indicated that certain crises arise during these stages. A crisis was described as a person's psychological efforts to adapt to the demands of the social environment.

Up to age two, children experience a crisis of trust versus mistrust as they attempt to explore their new environment and form basic social relationships. From ages 2-3 they experience the autonomy versus doubt crisis as they struggle to develop some independence from their parents while experiencing some doubt. From ages 4-5 the crisis consists of initiative versus guilt, which is characterized by imitation of parents. Erikson (1959) suggested that the imitation results from children's high admiration for their parents. However, they also experience guilt due to their occasional immoral thoughts or behaviors.

From the age of six to puberty, children encounter the industry versus inferiority crisis. Industry is displayed by the children's need to obtain knowledge via books, films, and tape recorder (Miller, 1989). Inferiority comes into existence when children undergo a sense of inadequacy due to certain failures. The next crisis involves adolescents; however, this topic will be discussed after a synopsis of the young adult, middle adult, and late adulthood crises is provided.

The intimacy and solidarity versus isolation crisis occurs during young adulthood wherein efforts are made to establish a nurturing relationship with members of the opposite sex as well as those of the same sex. When the attempts are unsuccessful, there may be episodes of isolation which can lead to loneliness.

In middle adulthood the generativity versus stagnation crisis is encountered. Erikson (1959) suggested that generativity refers to the need to provide guidance for future generations, an example of which would be the adult working to make society safer for the younger generation. Miller (1989) indicated that failure to provide generativity leads to boredom and lack of psychological development.

The last crisis experienced is integrity versus despair, which occurs during late adulthood. Integrity is exhibited in the adult's sense of integration of the previous stages; additionally, the adult accepts life's limitations. Despair results from the fear that life goals will not be fulfilled before one's death. …

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