An Afrocentric Approach to Group Social Skills Training with Inner-City African American Adolescents

Article excerpt

This study compared the effectiveness for inner-city African American youth (N = 64) of two social skills training (SST) curricula focusing on problem solving, anger management, and conflict resolution. One curriculum was Afrocentric, incorporating discussion of Black history and cultural experiences and emphasizing an Afrocentric value system; the other was culturally relevant but not Afrocentric. It was hypothesized that social skills acquisition would be better facilitated by Afrocentric curricula and that exposure to Afrocentric values would enhance the benefits of SST for Black youth. Neither hypothesis was confirmed; both curricula yielded similar decreases in trait anger and increases in assertiveness and self-control. However, results support the effectiveness of Afrocentric SST as a preventive intervention and the need for further study.


Violence-encompassing a variety of intentional or unintentional acts of harm such as stabbings, shootings, rapes, assaults, physical abuse, and homicide-is a critical social problem confronting American society. Since the early 1990s, violent crime rates in the United States have been the highest seen in decades, with the latest upswing in violence largely accounted for by youth under age 18 (Guerra, Huesmann, Tolan, Van Acker, & Eron, 1995). This trend disproportionately affects African American and other racial/ ethnic minority youth, who populate the urban neighborhoods in which much of this violence is concentrated, and who experience more violence than youth living in nonurban areas (Cooley, Turner, & Beidel, 1995).

As Bell and Jenkins (1991) maintain, exposure to violence has become commonplace for inner-city African American adolescents. For example, in a study conducted in predominantly Black central Baltimore (Maryland), Garbarino, Durbow, and Pardo (1991) note that 24% of their adolescent sample (N= 168) indicated having witnessed a murder, while 72% maintained that they knew someone who had been shot. The homicide rate for African American adolescents is reportedly six to nine times higher than that for White adolescents (Cotten, Resnick, Brown, & Martin, 1994; Durant, Cadenhead, Pendergrast, & Slavens, 1994). Between 1978 and 1988, homicide was the leading cause of death for African American male and female youth, and often these crimes were perpetrated by other African American youth (Hammond & Yung, 1993).

Family disruption, poverty, unemployment, and racism are environmental risk factors that contribute to violence in urban communities (McLoyd,1990). Complex urban environmental stressors such as family and community violence, victimization, and poverty contribute to feelings of low self-worth, anger, hopelessness, and aggression among the youth who live in these communities (Oliver, 1989). These constant stressors can prevent the development and use of socially acceptable ways to mediate violence. As a result, urban youth are placed at high risk of neither developing nor maintaining healthy social interaction skills, which Reed (1994) defines as (a) the ability to organize cognitions and behaviors toward an action that is culturally and socially acceptable, and (b) the ability to assess, modify, and maximize or reach particular goals. With regard to violence prevention and intervention particularly, these skills involve problem solving, conflict resolution, and anger management (Bulkeley & Cramer, 1990).

Social skills training (SST) is a popular and effective means of prevention and intervention with adolescent populations (Reed, 1994; Waksman, 1985). It is frequently used as a preventive intervention to remediate problematic social behaviors while encouraging positive social interactions (Gresham & Elliott, 1990). Most SST programs involve formal teaching of the problem-solving and interpersonal skills required for surviving, living with others, and succeeding in a complex society. As such, they provide a broad base of prosocial skills training that includes awareness building, and development of situationspecific skills that foster interpersonal competency. …


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