249218 Understanding how young Black men construct meaning about peer homicide

Monday, October 31, 2011: 5:19 PM

Jocelyn Smith, MS, LGMFT , Department of Family Science, University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, MD
Youth violence remains a critical public health concern in the United States. Homicide is the second leading cause of death for American youth ages 15-24 (CDC, 2010) and the leading cause of death for Black males (ages 10-34). More Black males ages 16-24 die annually as a result of homicide than any other racial-ethnic group in the U.S. (CDC, 2010). These statistics also suggest that young Black men are at greater risk for becoming homicide survivors—surviving friends or family members of murdered peers (Hertz, Prothrow-Stith, & Cherry, 2005). While recent research and programmatic efforts have been directed toward understanding the impacts of community violence and violence prevention (Benhorin & McMahon, 2008), less research has explored how peer homicide shapes the transition to adulthood for young Black men. In-depth interviews were conducted with young Black men in a major urban center in the Middle Atlantic region (n = 25; ages 17-23) to explore the process, context, and meaning young Black men construct about the violence in their communities and the death(s) of their peers. A qualitative analysis revealed that peer homicide shaped young men's perceptions of their personal safety, their mortality, and their futures. Young men discussed living on “borrowed time”—having a limited life expectancy precipitated by their neighborhood contexts. Young men also discussed peer death as a point of reflection where they paused to evaluate their approach to life and their repertoire of survival strategies. Implications for health scholars and professionals working with young Black men are discussed.

Learning Areas:
Diversity and culture
Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences
Systems thinking models (conceptual and theoretical models), applications related to public health

Learning Objectives:
Describe how community violence affects the lives of young Black men. Identify how young Black men construct meaning around the violence in their communities and the deaths of their peers resulting from this violence. Discuss the implications of key findings for researchers, community programmers, and health professionals working with young Black men.

Keywords: Violence, African American

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present because I have expertise in qualitative research and have extensive experience working with African American youth and families.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.