Police Contact and Anxiety Among Black Young Adults in St. Louis

Mar 6, 2023

social work research journal

Anxiety disorders are among the most prevalent disorders for Black young adults (ages 18 to 29) in the United States. Additionally, some Black young adults who have had encounters, directly or indirectly, with police may experience “police contact anxiety” (PCA) symptoms either during or in anticipation of future encounters with police. However, there have been few studies of this phenomenon.

Researchers published their findings on this topic in a recent issue of the journal Social Work Research, which is co-published by NASW and Oxford University Press, in an article titled Prevalence and Correlates of Police Contact Anxiety among Male and Female Black Emerging Adults in St. Louis, Missouri.

The 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.

Study authors:

  • Robert O. Motley, Jr., PhD, assistant professor, School of Social Work, Boston College
  • Yu-Chih Chen, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Social Work & Social Administration, University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong
  • Yasir Masood, MD, graduate research assistant, Race & Opportunity Lab
  • Alyssa Finner, MSW, community engagement coordinator, Race & Opportunity Lab
  • Sean Joe, PhD, professor, Center for Social Development, Brown School of Social Work, Washington University in St. Louis

NASW journals are co-published by NASW Press and Oxford University Press. The journal Social Work is a benefit of NASW membership. It is available online or, at a member’s request, in print. Children & SchoolsHealth & Social Work and Social Work Research are available by subscription at a discounted rate for NASW members.

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