School Psychology Forum

African American Girls’ Descriptions of Life in High-Risk Neighborhoods

By Ann Cale Kruger, Faith Zabek, Staeshe Collins, Erin A. Harper, Chela Hamilton, Miriam Chitescu McGee, Catherine Perkins & Joel Meyers

pp. 199—213

School Climate and Violence Prevention and Intervention

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ABSTRACT: In disadvantaged neighborhoods African American girls are at elevated risk for exposure to violence and sexualization (Miller, 2008; Salazar, Wingood, DiClemente, Lan, & Harrington, 2004). Preventive interventions can promote resilience by supporting capacities such as social decision making and self-understanding (Masten, 2001). We report on an afterschool intervention group in a transitional housing facility for women and children. The participants were fifth-, sixth-, and seventh-grade African American girls (N 5 11). Sessions met for 1.5–2 hours per week over 15 weeks. We recorded the themes that emerged from the participants’ conversations during group sessions. The girls in this study described strained relationships, recurring violence, internalized stereotypes, and objectifying sexual activities. When repeated throughout development, such experiences may normalize aggression and objectification and reduce agency and future orientation. Learning from first-hand accounts of girls living in stressed urban environments is crucial to creating future interventions specific to their needs.