While African American parents have long expressed anguish about having to give “the talk“ to their children on the safest way, hopefully, to interact with police, four notable researchers have investigated the effects of anticipated negative encounters between the police and black youth on the emotional and mental health of pregnant African American women.
The results of this groundbreaking study,” Anticipated Negative Police-Youth Encounters and Depressive Symptom among Pregnant African American Women: A Brief Report” was recently published by Fleda Mask Jackson, Ph.D., Sherman A. James, Ph.D., Tracy Curry Owens, Ph.D. and Alpha F. Bryan, M.D. in the Journal of Urban Health, the journal of the New York Academy of Medicine. The findings reveal that pregnant African American women are stressed about the likely probability that their children will someday have negative encounters with police and also that the stressor from youth-police encounters contributes to signs of depression during pregnancy. Furthermore, the majority of women participating in the study had preschool children already in the home and having a male child contributed to the connection between stress over police encounters and depression. However, there were some indications that further study might show how having a female preschooler could be a factor as well. This work was support by funding from the United Way of Greater Atlanta.
The 100 pregnant women who collaborated in the research were recruited from the clinic of the Clayton County Georgia Board of Health. The majority of the women had household incomes of less than 19,000 per year, had only completed high school, and was single. The findings from the study are the results from the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and the Jackson, Hogue, Phillips Contextualized Stress measure, a tool designed to assess the intersectional stressors for black women. The responses revealed that 33% of the women showed symptoms of depression and that 41% agreed that they were stressed about the possibility of their children negatively encountering the police. Analysis indicated that stress from anticipating negative police-youth encounters was significantly associated with symptoms for depression.
All expectant mothers have concerns about their children’s lives but African American women shoulder the burden of protecting children from violence and racial discrimination. Knowing that African American women contemplate negative encounters between the police and their children underscores the urgency for police reform with improved police-community relations. Correspondingly, it signifies the necessity of heath care professionals being responsive to the unique individual and environmental level stressors placing African American expectant mothers and the children that they bear in jeopardy.
Scholar, educator, and activist, Fleda Mask Jackson is a social entrepreneur as the president and CEO of Majaica, LLC in Atlanta, Georgia and is the creator and leader of Save 100 Babies, a cross sector network devoted to the study and application of the social determinants for birth outcomes. Dr Jackson has been a Visiting Scholar at Spelman College, her alma mater, and is currently a University Affiliate at Columbia University.