A study found adults see black girls as "less innocent" than white girls

Property of Around the Way Girl, Inc.

Property of Around the Way Girl, Inc.

A Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality study shows that black girls (especially in the age range of 5–14) in the United States are perceived by adults as much less innocent than white girls. This research sheds a bright light on the necessity of educational, environmental, social justice reform.


Compared to white girls of the same age, survey participants [adults] perceive that:

• Black girls need less nurturing

• Black girls need less protection

• Black girls need to be supported less

• Black girls need to be comforted less

• Black girls are more independent

• Black girls know more about adult topics

• Black girls know more about sex

CLICK HERE to read the research article

"The report builds on similar results that have emerged from studies of adult perceptions of Black boys. In 2014, for example, research by Professor Phillip Goff and colleagues revealed that beginning at the age of 10, Black boys are more likely than their white peers to be misperceived as older, viewed as guilty of suspected crimes, and face police violence if accused of a crime." 

At Around the Way Girl, Inc. we believe that these results are extremely problematic and shed light on a root concern. The adults that view these innocent young women this way, are part of the problem. Young women rely on adults to lead the way. Their leadership can be questionable if they view black/brown girls in this way. Countless research shows that due to environmental racism, education inequality and the criminal justice system, black/brown girls need protection, support, nurturing and more - the complete opposite of what these so-called adults believe. Overall, we appreciate this research because it is truly enlightening and informative. Our work is well aligned with the Georgetown University call to action which you can read below. It is our {ATWG} duty to counteract this manifestation of implicit bias and discrimination. 

Call to Action:

This report represents a key step in addressing the disparate treatment of Black girls in public systems. We challenge researchers to develop new studies to investigate the degree and prevalence of the adultification of Black girls—a term used in this report to refer to the perception of Black girls as less innocent and more adult-like than white girls of the same age—as well as its possible causal connection with negative outcomes across a diverse range of public systems, including education, juvenile justice, and child welfare. Further, we urge legislators, advocates, and policymakers to examine the disparities that exist for Black girls in the education and juvenile justice systems and engage in necessary reform. Lastly, we recommend providing individuals who have authority over children—including teachers and law enforcement officials— with training on adultification to address and counteract this manifestation of implicit bias against Black girls. Above all, further efforts must ensure that the voices of Black girls themselves remain front and center to the work.