Unpacking Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Emotional Distress Among Adolescents During Witnessed Police Stops

Dylan B. Jackson, Juan Del Toro, Daniel C. Semenza, Alexander Testa, Michael G. Vaughn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: This study aimed to investigate racial/ethnic disparities in emotional distress during witnessed police stops among a national sample of urban-born youth. Methods: A national sample of urban-born youth in the U.S. from the most recent wave (2014–2017) of the Fragile Families & Child Wellbeing Study was used in the present study, with a particular focus on youth who report having witnessed police stops, despite not being directly stopped by the police (N = 1,488). Results: Significant racial/ethnic disparities in feeling angry and unsafe during witnessed police stops emerged, with multiracial, black, and Hispanic youth exhibiting the highest rates of these forms of emotional distress. In the case of Black and multiracial youth, officer intrusiveness and perceptions of procedural injustice collectively explain a large portion of disparities in emotional distress during witnessed stops. Conclusions: Youth of color are more likely to report emotional distress during witnessed police stops, largely due to the officer intrusiveness and perceived injustices that characterize these stops. Moving forward, scholars should consider whether racial/ethnic disparities in witnessing police violence and injustice may be a significant driver of mental health inequities among urban-born youth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)248-254
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Aug

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study was provided by the NICHD through grants R01HD36916 , R01HD39135 , and R01HD40421 , as well as a consortium of private foundations (see http://www.fragilefamilies.princeton.edu/funders.asp for the complete list).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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