Journal of African American Studies

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 233–255 | Cite as

Symbolic Meaning of Violence: Urban African-American Adolescent Males’ Perspectives

  • Rafael L. OutlandEmail author


This paper explores the symbolic meaning of violence based on urban African-American adolescent males’ (UAAMs) perspectives. Findings in this paper derived from a phenomenological investigation of UAAMs’ meanings and experiences of violence. Nine UAAMs participated in phenomenological interviews, and six in a focus group. Several themes emerged from the study, including violence as a means to gain respect, a form of intimidation, and self-defense. Implications for counselors and social service providers are discussed. Urban African-American adolescent males’ (UAAMs) experiences of violence have remained at alarming rates over the past decade. Despite some drops in these numbers in recent years, UAAMs are more likely to encounter episodes of violence, including poverty and homelessness, mass incarceration, and gun violence and homicides when compared to their white and racially diverse counterparts. Although researchers have investigated this phenomenon among UAAM and their urban peers from a variety of theoretical lenses and vantage points, limited research has investigated UAAMs’ meaning and experiences of violence, from the perspective of these developing young men. As a result, a gap in the literature lies in the fact that UAAMs’ narratives regarding their experiences and meanings of violence have been granted limited attention. Thus, UAAMs’ narratives about their experiences of violence may provide important solutions as to the causes and solutions of this phenomenon.


African-American adolescent males qualitative research youth violence 



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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Counselor EducationCollege at Brockport (SUNY)BrockportUSA

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