The Cop Connection

Poster: Prevalence and Correlates of Police Contact Anxiety Among Black Emerging Adults

Poster Authors: Robert Motley, Ph.D., Race and Opportunity Lab Manager at Washington University in Saint Louis, Yu-Chin Chen, Phd, Yasir Masood, MD, Alyssa Finner, MSW, Sean Joe, PhD

New study confirms increased police contact anxiety among Black emerging adults

A recently released study, Prevalence and Correlates of Police Contact Anxiety Among Black Emerging Adults, took existing knowns and then filled in gaping holes to assess the severity of police contact anxiety (PCA) among Black emerging adults, ages 18 to 29, attending college in St. Louis, Missouri.

For example, as explained by the study’s lead author, Robert Motley, PhD, Race and Opportunity Lab Manager at Washington University in St. Louis, research tells us that anxiety disorders are among the most prevalent disorders for Black emerging adults in America.

Previous studies also confirm that Black emerging adults are three to four times more likely than other ethnic groups to experience exposure to non-fatal police violence; two to three times more likely to experience exposure to fatal police violence; and when experiencing fatal police violence, three times more likely to be unarmed when killed.

Evidence further notes that exposure to stressful or traumatic events links to anxiety disorders.

“What we didn’t know was the relationship between exposure to police violence and anxiety disorders among Black emerging adults,” Dr. Motley said. “Our study, which to my knowledge is the first of its kind, quantified police contact anxiety for this group of individuals.”

The study’s full focus analyzed the association between sociodemographic factors, witnessing community violence, exposure to police violence as a victim, witness or via video, and levels of anxiety that Black emerging adults reported experiencing during or in anticipation of police contact.

As noted in the study, the 300 study participants had on average been a victim of police use of force nearly two times; had witnessed in-person police use force against someone more than seven times; and had seen video in the media of police use force more than 34 times. In addition, participants had on average witnessed community violence more than 10 times.

Study Method

 

Univariate, bivariate, and ordinary least square regression analyses were done to estimate prevalence rates and correlates of police contact anxiety for the study sample.

Results showed that police contact anxiety as a result of being a victim (Mean = 13.68, SD = 4.94), witnessing (Mean = 13.35, SD = 5.10), and seeing a video (Mean = 13.01, SD = 4.41) of police use of force was moderately high.

Bivariate analysis revealed that being male, young, unemployed, and witnessing community violence was significantly associated with police contact anxiety.

Results from ordinary least square regression showed that, controlling for other variables, participants who worked fulltime were less likely to have higher police contact anxiety as a result of seeing a video of police use of force than those who were unemployed (b = −2.82, SE = 1.24).

In addition, participants who reported higher rates of witnessing community violence were more likely to have higher police contact anxiety as a result of being a victim of police use of force (b = 0.11, SE = 0.05).

As for specific questions, Dr. Motley explained that his team adapted questions from the Hamilton Anxiety Rating. Each question was positioned within a 30-day period and scored answers on a Likert scale from 0 = not at all to 3 = severely.

Questions included:

  1. Have you experienced worry due to police contact anxiety?
  2. Have you had the urge to use the bathroom during police contact anxiety?
  3. Have you been unable to relax due to police contact anxiety?
  4. Have you experienced fear due to police contact anxiety?
  5. Have you taken steps to avoid police contact anxiety?
  6. Have you talked with a child about avoiding police contact or how to behave when they are engaged in police contact?

As for what we can do with this information, Dr. Motley suggests that the study applications would help clinicians working with ethnic minorities assess police contact anxiety and determine who is most at risk for exposure to police violence. “I also feel that we need future research to examine the long term effects of exposure to police violence on mental and behavioral outcomes for Black emerging adults,” Dr. Motley concluded.