This study examined racial and ethnic differences in adolescents’ fear of attack or harm at school after adjusting for differences in violent victimization prevalence.
The authors analyzed 49,782 surveys from 35,588 adolescents who participated in the NCVS School Crime Supplement (1999-2017). The authors tested whether differences in fear are attributable to youths’ (1) experiences with non-criminal harms, (2) indirect exposure to crime and violence at their school, or (3) school security and disciplinary practices. The authors then examined trends in fear and victimization by race/ethnicity over a period of crime decline to determine how fear has changed relative to victimization across the racial/ethnic groups. In the pooled sample, Black and Hispanic youth had 93% and 74% higher odds than White youth of expressing fear at school, after adjusting for violent victimization and demographic characteristics. After accounting for non-criminal harms, exposure to crime and violence, and school security/discipline, Black and Hispanic youth had only 39% and 44% higher odds than White youth of expressing fear, respectively. Mediation analyses indicated that the explanatory variables explained half (50.2%) and one third (33.7%) of the difference in the odds of fear between Black and Hispanic youth compared to White youth. Analyses over time indicated that fear declined more for Black and Hispanic youth than White youth, despite similarly-sized declines in victimization across race/ethnicity. Altogether, the results suggest that racial and ethnic differences in fear of criminal victimization partly reflect differential experiences and environments at school. The authors consider the implications of these findings in terms of understanding how the school context influences fear differently across students’ racial and ethnic identities. (Publisher abstract provided)