Research has shown that African American youth are exposed to approximately 33% more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) than rates of Caucasian children (Woods-Jaeger et al., 2021). ACE’s are potentially traumatic events that take place during childhood and include circumstances such as caregiver substance abuse usage, bullying, racism, witnessing intimate partner violence, abuse or neglect, and community violence.

Resilience, defined as being able to successfully adapt and function despite severe adversity and trauma, is a key factor in African American youth survival. There are now more opportunities to support African American youth, collaboration across systems is still needed for a more successful development of community-level solutions. There are numerous barriers to resilience among African American adolescents exposed to trauma and adversity. The school system is one of those barriers.

Although schools can be one of the sources of support for youths exposed to ACEs, African American youth experience school-based racism such as racial profiling, disproportionate rates of removal from the classroom and school suspensions compared with their White peers. Studies also report that African American students encounter racial/ethnic microaggressions (e.g., expressions about academic inferiority, expectations of aggression, or stereotypical misrepresentations). School-based racial/ethnic microaggressions and the health and well-being of these youth need to be further examined and researched. The cascading effects of microaggressions experienced in school settings, violence exposure, and ACEs can have severe negative impacts, and are critical to address to improve trauma-informed programs and policies within schools.


Woods-Jaeger, B. A., Hampton-Anderson, J., Christensen, K., Miller, T., O’Connor, P., & Berkley-Patton, J. (2021). School-based racial microaggressions: A barrier to resilience among African American adolescents exposed to trauma. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy.

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