Race Towards Understanding Violence

Criminal activities made by adolescents never fail to surprise the public and opinions bordering on racial prejudice are prompted when the crime was committed by a person of color. Many researches about the differences of blacks and whites when it comes to their susceptibility to violent acts have been made but scientists, Dana L. Haynie and Danielle C. Payne of the Department of Sociology from the Ohio State University, decided to conduct a study that focused more on the characteristics of friendship networks of juveniles and how these are correlated to their ethnicity.

Their four main hypotheses were made: (1) that the characteristics of an adolescent’s racial or ethnic friendship network can be a predictor of susceptibility to violence; (2) that black and Hispanic youth’s violent tendencies can be predicted by the racial heterogeneity of their friendship network coupled with their friends’ popularity while whites and Asians do not get affected by these factors; (3) that the behavior of friends, whether pro-social or deviant, have a greater effect on black and Hispanic adolescents compared to whites and Asians; and (4) that the pro-social or deviant behavior of friends will have less influence on violence susceptibility of black and Hispanic adolescents compared to their white and Asian American counterparts.

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The researchers analyzed the survey of sample tested by two waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) which consisted of 12,912 American adolescent students and their parents who were grouped under four categories based on their ethnicity. Results showed that race and ethnicity can be predictors of violent tendencies because black and Hispanic youth get into violent situations compared to whites although Asians proved to be the most peaceful.

The study also showed that higher racial heterogeneity and popularity of friends within an adolescent’s peer network affected a student’s susceptibility to violent acts. For blacks, heterogeneity meant decrease of violent tendencies but this was not the same for Hispanics and whites. The researchers pose that this may be because blacks are able to satisfy their need for respect and recognition in heterogenic networks while Hispanics are already used to having popular sets of friends. Heterogeneity may also have a negative effect on whites because it could mean that the students were involved with the financially lower social strata of other minorities which badly influence their behavior. Another result showed that racial friendship networks, especially for blacks, are mostly homogenous.

Lastly, the final hypothesis was rejected because results indicated that violent tendencies were highly more influenced by scholastic standing and prior involvement to deviant behavior compared to race or ethnicity. The research was good in the sense that it sought to find many studies that gave good backgrounds for the scientists’ hypotheses. They were able to read and report various studies that had opposing results which accounted for balance and objectivity in their views. However, the paper itself is poorly written because it was difficult to understand at first reading. The selection of words like “generalizability” could have been better.

Phrases like “increased the odds” could have been replaced by more scientific and definite terms like “increase in probability” to lend better formality and clarity for the report. There were also many sentences that were too long that could have been shortened to provide a clearer message. The researchers also repeated terms or words twice within sentences which made readers feel that they were simply lengthening the body of the paper. Citations are also welcome in any research paper but these should be used properly. The researchers even used citations to add credibility to the source of their survey sample from the Add Health which was not truly necessary.

There were also contradictory results presented such as the one about heterogeneity in peer network being a good predictor of tendency towards violence. These were later on opposed by the fact that black youth are less violent when they have heterogenic peer networks and the suggestion that it is not heterogenic peer network but social class that affects white adolescents’ susceptibility to committing violent acts. This research is significant because it tries to erase the prejudice against other races which normally arises because of criminal activities. Although it sought to explain what predicts violence in terms of an adolescent’s social circles, it was very limited to the school setting. Most people are highly influenced by their home environment compared to their school relationships.

Although the researchers also tried to find correlations between the number of parents of a student and violence, number of siblings and relatives living with them could also have been great factors or influences towards violent acts. Other factors that could have been taken into consideration are the hobbies of the peer network and the kind of media they are exposed to. In the future, more research can be made that encompasses the home, religion and family backgrounds of the subjects aside from media exposure. These can be done in the form of surveys or even interviews to get vivid concepts on how peer networks really affect adolescents and their tendencies towards violent activities.