CHICAGO – A new study from the University of Chicago focuses on how Black teens on the city’s South Side cope with violence in their communities. It’s called African American Adolescents Living and Coping With Community Violence on Chicago’s Southside.
The study found that participating teens primarily experienced violence through physical attacks, police incidents and gun violence. One of the study’s authors Professor Dexter Voisin says boys were more likely to witness and be victims of violence than girls. He says boys often responded to violence with more violence, while girls tried to avoid situations and isolated themselves at home.
The study describes different coping styles including “getting throught,” an acceptane of community conditions; “getting along,” self-defense techniques; “getting away,” a strategy to avoid situations; and “getting back,” a confrontational strategy.
Voisin says many of the teens saw violence as a normal part of their lives.
“So in some ways normalizing a very abnormal experience. But several of these kids talked about buckling down, staying focused in school with hopes of one day leaving their communities,” Voisin said.
Voisin recommends safe community spaces for teens and more counseling programs at school. He said students are constantly experiencing traumatic situations, and counceling is needed beyond the big events that happen in the news.
The participants included 16 Black teenage boys and 16 Black teenage girls from Chicago’s South Side. They range from ages 14 to 17. Most did not come from low-income homes, but most lived in a home with a single guardian. Nearly 40 percent reported their mothers had some college education.