This study aimed to investigate racial/ethnic disparities in emotional distress during witnessed police stops among a national sample of urban-born youth.
A national sample of urban-born youth in the U.S. from the most recent wave (2014–2017) of the Fragile Families & Child Wellbeing Study was used in the present study, with a particular focus on youth who report having witnessed police stops, despite not being directly stopped by the police (N = 1,488).
Significant racial/ethnic disparities in feeling angry and unsafe during witnessed police stops emerged, with multiracial, black, and Hispanic youth exhibiting the highest rates of these forms of emotional distress. In the case of Black and multiracial youth, officer intrusiveness and perceptions of procedural injustice collectively explain a large portion of disparities in emotional distress during witnessed stops.
Youth of color are more likely to report emotional distress during witnessed police stops, largely due to the officer intrusiveness and perceived injustices that characterize these stops. Moving forward, scholars should consider whether racial/ethnic disparities in witnessing police violence and injustice may be a significant driver of mental health inequities among urban-born youth.