Understanding gender-specific conflict between African American youth

  1. Crime Prevention
  2. Criminal Justice Reform
  3. Gender and Crime
  4. Race and Inequality

Key Findings

  • It is important to identify the situational context in which conflict occurs, including whether it takes place in groups or individually, carries out into the community, and/or happens in the presence of an intervening adult.
  • Gang-related disputes constituted the largest share of conflicts between African American young men, which were likely to be more violent if they occurred in a group setting and without the presence of an, intervening adult.
  • Three dominant triggers were found to be the largest source of conflicts between African American young women: boys and boyfriends, rumors and gossip, and disrespect. Generally, conflicts between these young women were less violent and more prolonged than conflicts between the young men.


In the article, “Gender-Specific Conflicts among Urban African American Youth: The Roles of Situational Context and Issues of Contention,” Cobbina explored the situational contexts of youth conflicts among African-American adolescent boys and girls, seeking to address gaps in the level of understanding of gender and violence. The authors analyzed 153 narrative accounts of violent and nonviolent conflicts from interviews with urban African-American adolescents living in St. Louis, Missouri. Interviews took place between 1999-2000, and included 33 young women and 39 young men. The study examined several contextual factors that contribute to youth conflict, including whether the conflict occurred in groups or individually, the extent to which the conflict carried out into the community, and whether or not intervening adults were present. Gang-related disputes where found to be the largest source of conflicts between young men, primarily emanating from words or actions that were perceived to be disrespectful. Those fights that occurred outside of school were likely to be more violent, perhaps due to lack of intervening adult presence. Disrespect was found to be a significant source of conflict for conflicts between young women, as well. However, conflicts for young women around disrespect were often found to be less violent, less spontaneous, and more prolonged than conflicts between young men. The results of this study provide insights into the situational context of disputes among African-American youth, demonstrating that conflicts unfold in gender-specific ways often tied to the issues of contention in which they emerge.

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