Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood
This groundbreaking study by the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality provides—for the first time— data showing that adults view Black girls as less innocent and more adult-like than their white peers, especially in the age range of 5–14.
The report builds on similar results that have emerged from studies of adult perceptions of Black boys. In 2014, for example, research by Professor Phillip Go and colleagues revealed that beginning at the age of 10, Black boys are more likely than their white peers to be misperceived as older, viewed as guilty of suspected crimes, and face police violence if accused of a crime.
SNAPSHOT OF THE DATA
Compared to white girls of the same age, survey participants perceive that
• Black girls need less nurturing
• Black girls need less protection
• Black girls need to be supported less
• Black girls need to be comforted less
• Black girls are more independent
• Black girls know more about adult topics
• Black girls know more about sex
These results are profound, with far-reaching implications. Our findings reveal a potential contributing factor to the disproportionate rates of punitive treatment in the education and juvenile justice systems for Black girls.
IN THE EDUCATION SYSTEM
In light of proven disparities in school discipline, we suggest that the perception of Black girls as less innocent may contribute to harsher punishment by educators and school resource o cers. Furthermore, the view that Black girls need less nurturing, protection, and support and are more independent may translate into fewer leadership and mentorship opportunities in schools.
IN THE JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM
Given established discrepancies in law enforcement and juvenile court practices that disproportionately a ect Black girls, the perception of Black girls as less innocent and more adult-like may contribute to more punitive exercise of discretion by those in positions of authority, greater use of force, and harsher penalties.