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Multiracial youth more likely to engage in violent behavior, substance abuse

Multiracial adolescents in middle school are significantly more likely to engage in such problem behaviors as violence and substance use than single-race young people, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Washington and the University of Chicago also found that perceived racial discrimination in school and in home neighborhoods puts adolescents at risk for these problems. However, the study suggests that a strong, positive ethnic identity can shield some multiracial youth from behavior problems. The study was published in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry.

Among the findings, the study found that multiracial adolescents were significantly more likely than white, black or Asian-American youth to have smoked cigarettes. The odds were 38 percent less for whites, 32 percent less for blacks and 51 percent less for Asian-Americans. Similarly, whites, blacks and Asian-Americans were 45, 30 and 65 percent less likely, respectively, to have ever consumed alcohol than multiracial youngsters.

Multiracial youngsters also were significantly more likely to have used marijuana and to have become drunk or high on drugs than white or Asian-Americans. There was little difference in these behaviors between multiracial and black youth.

When it came to violent behaviors such as carrying a weapon, being in a fight and threatening to stab someone, multiracial youth again were significantly more likely to report having engaged in these activities than were whites or Asian-Americans. Fewer differences were found between multiracial and black youths, although the multiracial adolescents reported significantly higher rates of hurting someone badly in a fight (39 percent) and having carried a gun (46 percent).

Overall, multiracial youth also reported a significantly higher mean frequency of engaging in violent behavior compared to each of the three single-race groups. All of these findings were adjusted for age, gender and socioec
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Contact: Joel Schwarz
joels@u.washington.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
1-May-2006


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