Development and risk behavior among African American, Caucasian, and mixed-race adolescents living in high poverty inner-city neighborhoods

John M. Bolland, Chalandra M. Bryant, Bradley E. Lian, Debra M. McCallum, Alexander T. Vazsonyi, Joan M. Barth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


Youths growing up in low-income inner-city neighborhoods are at substantial risk for initiating substance use, violent behavior, and sexual intercourse at early ages; these risk behaviors continue at comparatively high rates through adolescence. Hopelessness has been implicated as a risk factor for these behaviors. In this paper, we consider how race influences this process. African Americans form a demographic minority within the United States, but they are often the majority within inner-city neighborhoods. For Caucasians, the opposite typically holds. Mixed-race populations form a minority within both contexts. Using longitudinal data, we examine the relationship between race and risk behaviors in several impoverished inner-city neighborhoods where African Americans form the distinct majority and Caucasians and people of mixed racial heritage form a small minority. We also consider how race moderates the relationship between hopelessness and risk behavior. Our findings show that compared to Caucasian or mixed-race adolescents, African American adolescents are less likely to engage in risk behaviors, and that hopelessness has a less important impact on their behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)230-249
Number of pages20
JournalAmerican Journal of Community Psychology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Dec 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements The research reported here was partially supported by the National Institutes of Health Office for Research on Minority Health through a cooperative agreement administered by the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (HD30060); by a grant from the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (TI13340); by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (DA017428); by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CE000191); by the Cities of Mobile and Prichard; by the Mobile Housing Board; and by the Mobile County Health Department.


  • Adolescent risk behavior
  • Development
  • Hopelessness
  • Minority status
  • Race

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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