Friday, January 26, 2007

Young black and Hispanic kids are the most hyperactive and antisocial: A reader suggested in an earlier post that the black orientation toward authority is the product of living among many lawless young people. It seems likely that culture is often a reaction to the characteristics of the group. The college-prep class can afford to have a less structured environment that fosters self-direction than a classroom at a last chance school.

But do blacks, on average, behave any differently than whites? A surprisingly candid study I found in the Journal of Marriage and Family (2003; 65:835-849) analyzed data on more than 2,000 black, white, and Hispanic kids (the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth). They looked at kids from age 5 to 13 and found that blacks had the highest rates of hyperactivity, Hispanics second, and whites third. The gap was evident at age 5 and it persisted through age 13. They began measuring antisocial behavior at age 7: the racial/ethnic ranking was the same, but while blacks and Hispanics got increasingly antisocial as they aged, whites did not. I suspect this pattern is common: early (possibly genetic) differences being magnified by different environments.

Now the author attibuted hyperactivity to home environment variables (he is a sociologist, after all), but I've seen several studies reporting large heritability. So, if a community has a greater density of hyperactive children and antisocial youths, one would expect it to react with a more authoritarian culture.

But as we have seen on this blog, values and behavior are not always consistent: in spite of all their bluster about kids needing a good whoopin' once in a while, the study shows that blacks do not spank their kids more often than whites. And incidentally, whites provide more emotional support and cognitive stimulation.

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