Abstract: Using Ecological Momentary Assessments to Understand Black Youths' Experiences of Racism, Stress, and Safety in Activity Spaces (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Using Ecological Momentary Assessments to Understand Black Youths' Experiences of Racism, Stress, and Safety in Activity Spaces

Saturday, January 15, 2022
Monument, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Anna Ortega-Williams, PhD, Assistant Professor, Hunter College School of Social Work, New York, NY
Jaime Booth, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Dashawna J. Fussell-Ware, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Yolanda Lawrence, PhD, Clinical Psychologist, Lady's Island, NC
Donnell H. Pearl, Community Researcher, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Ny'Ela Chapman, Middle School, Youth Research Advisory Board, Leader, University of Pittsburgh, Pitttsburgh, PA
William Allen, Youth Researcher, University of Pittsburgh, PA
Introduction: Both racial macroaggressions and neighborhood-level factors that are often the result of systematic divestment of Black neighborhoods and have been found to impact Black adolescents’ psychological stress and wellbeing. What is less known is how anti-Black racism is experienced in activity spaces throughout an adolescent’s ecosystem and its impact on their sense of safety, stress, and wellbeing. Considering youth perception of racism in activity spaces, defined as locations where youth routinely spend time, may be particularly important in adolescence, when youth are increasingly interacting with spaces outside of their home. This study seeks to understand the relationship between activity space level perceptions of racism and Black adolescents’ stress and safety and to identify where in an adolescents’ eco system they are perceiving more racism.

Methods: To address this aim, the SPIN (Spaces and People in Neighborhoods) Project recruited 75 Black youths (mean age 15.32), living in a primarily Black neighborhood (94%), to complete brief surveys three times a day for a month (ecological momentary assessment or EMA) about their feeling of stress and safety and perceptions of racism b. EMAs were pushed to cell phones using a combination of geo-fences and random triggers. Respondents completed 2,041 EMA surveys between July and December 2019. Multilevel models were used to test the relationship between perceptions of racism in a type of activity space and feelings of stress and safety. We also described the types of spaces that the youth perceived more racism, value, stress, and safety. All research activities were done in partnership with the SPIN Project Youth Research Advisory Board.

Results: Variance component models indicated that 12% of safety, 2% of stress, and 12% perceptions of racism occurred at the activity-space level. A positive relationship was found between activity space level perceptions of racism and stress (B(SE) = .16(.07, p<.05), controlling for individual-level variations in racism. The opposite was found for feelings of safety, with activity space level of perceptions of racism predicting feeling less safe (B(SE) = -.61(.16), p<.01). School and walking on the street emerged as locations where youth felt more racism and less safety. Youth also reported perceiving more racism on buses, vacant lot/houses, and at the store.

Conclusions: Perceptions of anti-black racism in activity spaces are related to youth’s report of both stress and safety, making activity spaces a critical site for intervention to promote Black adolescents’ wellbeing. The findings that youth are perceived more racism on the street, at school, on the bus, in vacant lots/houses, and at the store points to specific spaces in which interventions should be targeted.