In Their Own Words: How Black Teens Define Trauma



Trauma is a subjective phenomenon. However, when examining trauma among low-income, Black teens, it is common to use established clinical criteria as the metric for identifying and evaluating its presence and impact. Little attention has been devoted to exploring how Black youth characterize trauma in their own terms. This qualitative study explored the concept of trauma from the perspectives of 12 low-income, Black teens. Participants’ descriptions included death and loss; violence exposure; police harassment, racism, and discrimination; poverty; being stuck in the hood; and being bullied. While some of their descriptions were compatible with traumatic stressors outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), participants also highlighted factors that are not explicitly enumerated in the DSM. Findings present important implications for the development of more culturally and developmentally inclusive discussions of trauma and for clinical practice with low-income, Black youth who are impacted by trauma and adversity.


Trauma exposure Youth perceptions Black adolescents Dimensional analysis 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The corresponding author declares that there is no conflict of interest to report.

Ethical Standards and Informed Consent

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation [institutional and national] and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000. Informed consent and assent was obtained from all participants and their caregivers for being included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social WorkBowie State UniversityBowieUSA

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