Black Girls Viewed as Less Innocent Than White Girls, New Georgetown Law Research Shows

Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality released the new report “Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood.”

A groundbreaking study released today by Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality finds that adults view black girls as less innocent and more adult-like than their white peers, especially in the age range of 5-14.

The study, detailed in the new report, Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood, is the first of its kind to focus on girls, and builds on previous research on adult perceptions of black boys. That includes a 2014 study led by Phillip Goff that found that, beginning at age 10, black boys are more likely to be viewed as older and guilty of suspected crimes than white peers.

Authors of the new Georgetown Law report adapted the scale of childhood innocence developed by Goff and colleagues to include items associated with stereotypes of black women and girls. They then applied the scale to a new survey on adult perceptions of girls. The findings showed significant bias toward black girls starting as young as 5.

“What we found is that adults see black girls as less innocent and less in need of protection as white girls of the same age,” said Rebecca Epstein, lead author of the report and executive director of the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality.

“This new evidence of what we call the adultification of black girls may help explain why black girls in America are disciplined much more often and more severely than white girls – across our schools and in our juvenile justice system,” said Epstein.

The new report reveals that adults think:


  • Black girls seem older than white girls of the same age.
  • Black girls need less nurturing than…

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