Police discrimination among Black, Latina/x/o, and White adolescents: Examining frequency and relations to academic functioning

Katharine H. Zeiders, Adriana J. Umaña-Taylor, Selena Carbajal, Alexandria Pech

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Introduction: Concerns regarding police brutality and violence against people of color in the U.S. remain high in the current sociohistorical moment in which the recent murder of George Floyd by a police officer is highly salient. Although the prevalence and consequences of such experiences for Black and Latina/x/o adults have been documented in the literature, there is a limited understanding of youths’ negative experiences with police. Methods: Utilizing a sample of 1378 adolescents (Mage = 16.16 years, SD = 1.12), the current study examined Black, Latina/x/o, and White youths' self-reports of ethnic-racial police discrimination and linked these experiences to youths’ academic engagement and academic grades. Results: Black and Latina/x/o youth reported significantly greater experiences of ethnic-racial police discrimination than their White counterparts; nearly 24% of Black youth and 20% of Latina/x/o youth experienced at least one instance of ethnic-racial police discrimination in the last year, compared to only 2.9% of White youth. Differences by gender emerged among Latina/x/o youth. Police discrimination was associated with lower academic engagement and lower academic grades among all youth. Conclusions: Findings demonstrate that the greater prevalence of ethnic-racial police discrimination in the lives of youth of color, relative to their White counterparts, mirroring the experiences of adults. Furthermore, coupled with the significant links with academic adjustment, the current findings demonstrate an additional factor that is likely implicated in the Black and Latina/x/o vs. White academic achievement gap.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-99
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Adolescence
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Police discrimination
  • academic engagement
  • academic grades

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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