Conversation with Dr. Robert Motley about emerging adults' transitional phase towards adulthood. When this group faces mental illness, racism, homophobia, and sexism, access to treatment becomes challenging, escalating community violence and incarceration rates. To break this cycle, researchers like Dr. Motley suggest robust support systems, accessible transportation, a sense of belonging, and opportunities for upward social mobility. 

Featured in NASW and Oxford University Press Social Work Research Journal:

 “Prevalence and Correlates of Police Contact Anxiety among Male and Female Black Emerging Adults in St. Louis, Missouri.”

Dr. Motley and researchers studied the prevalence and severity of anxiety in the study participants, broken down along lines of male vs. female, income, and seeing a video vs. directly witnessing or being a victim of police contact or police violence. They found higher levels of anxiety among males, among those experiencing police violence, and among those witnessing community violence. Work and income were also factors in anxiety levels reported to researchers.

Authors called for more research in this area. Also, they recommend that social workers working with Black young adults be aware of possible anxiety related to police contact in this population.

Dr. Robert Motley

Dr. Robert Motely

Touched by Violence

“Police violence can affect anyone, but there are additional consequences to consider if that violence is perceived to occur because of one’s skin color or ethnicity,” said Motley, whose dissertation at Washington University-St. Louis was based on interviews with 300 Black college students in St. Louis who had personally experienced or witnessed police violence, or watched it on video. “There are quantifiable harmful effects, even if the person was an observer of the violence, and these can endure for a significantly long time.”

Study Explores Threats to Personal Safety of Emerging Adults

The impact of violence on Massachusetts emerging adults mirrors many national trends, the RB-VIP study notes: Among its findings is that emerging-adult males experience considerably higher rates of homicides than females in the same group, and Black emerging adults account for higher rates of homicides than their counterparts from other ethnic groups. 

How do rates of exposure to police violence that is perceived to be motivated by racism vary among young Black and Latinx people?

How do rates of exposure to police violence that is perceived to be motivated by racism vary across the gender, ethnicity, and birthplace of young Black and Latinx people living in the United States?Researchers in the Boston College School of Social Work have received a two-year, $395,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Evidence for Action program to find out. 

How do rates of exposure to perceived racism-based police violence vary among Black emerging adults?

Black people age 18 to 29 who encounter police violence experience an increase in anger, depression, and hypervigilance, said Motley, who studies the interplay between racism, violence, and trauma among emerging adults. Their self-esteem often drops, he said, and unwanted thoughts sometimes pop into their heads without warning. When something reminds them 


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