Cultural factors Influencing the Differential Offending Rates Between Black and White Male Adolescents

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Mark Leach

Advisor Department



Black adolescents are over represented at every juncture of the juvenile justice system. Black adolescents make up less than 20 percent of the total adolescent population in the United States (U.S. Bureau of Census, 1996) but constitute approximately 50% of all detained juvenile offenders (Snyder et al., 1999). This pattern suggests that a serious problem exists. This present study is an initial inquiry into what social forces might be at work in shaping Black youth to offend more frequently and more seriously than White youth. Cadets in a Mississippi Youth Challenge Program completed self-report questionnaires that target four socially influenced intrapersonal characteristics (alienation, self-efficacy, anger, and aggression). This experimenter attempted to determine if differences existed between Black and White adolescents on any or any combination of these four variables. Differences between the two groups on alienation, self-efficacy, or anger might then be used to explain different levels and types of aggression employed if they exist and would contribute to our understanding of the overrepresentation of Black adolescents in the juvenile justice system. Participants included 163 (64 Black, 99 White) adolescents aged 16-18 years old. Multiple Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) revealed no differences between the two groups on alienation, self-efficacy, anger, or aggression. Extremely low Cronbach's alpha reliability coefficients may in part explain the null results. All measures with the exception of the STAXI-2 resulted in reliability levels well below the acceptable level of .70 (as cited in Reyes et al., 2003). Sampling confounds such as motivation, possible learning disabilities, and/or pathology are discussed along with instrumentation deficiencies. Directions for future research are suggested.