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Racial Disparities in Arrests: A Race Specific Model Explaining Arrest Rates Across Black and White Young Adults

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Three theories attempt to explain the racial disparities in arrest between White and Black Americans: Differential Involvement Hypothesis, Differential Selection and Processing Hypothesis, and Social Disorganization Theory. We tested these hypotheses simultaneously in a multiple-group longitudinal panel model with the ADD Health dataset (Black n = 2459, Whiten = 7403). After controlling for contextual and behavioral factors, we still found Black young adults were arrested seven times more often than their White counterparts. To maintain cultural competence, it is imperative for clinicians to be aware of these disparities when working with families of different races in order to adjust treatment accordingly, but advocacy for greater systemic change may be more important for some communities than therapy alone.

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This research uses data from Add Health, a program project directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris and designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and funded by grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 23 other federal agencies and foundations. Special acknowledgment is due Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Information on how to obtain the Add Health data files is available on the Add Health website ( No direct support was received from grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis.


The authors declare there was no funding involved in this research project.

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Correspondence to Cydney Schleiden.

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The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with ethical standards of the institutional review board.

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The ADD Health researchers obtained informed consent from all individual participants included in the study.

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We would like to dedicate this research to the incarcerated minority adolescents who inspired us to tell their story in hopes to provide them with equal opportunity and create awareness for others to advocate for the betterment of their future.

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Schleiden, C., Soloski, K.L., Milstead, K. et al. Racial Disparities in Arrests: A Race Specific Model Explaining Arrest Rates Across Black and White Young Adults. Child Adolesc Soc Work J 37, 1–14 (2020).

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