Troubled Black youths don’t follow the common gender-based patterns of internalizing or externalizing their problems but instead react based on what is happening within their families, according to While often times girls internalize their problems and become depressed and anxious and boys externalize with violence against people or property, that is not the case with African-American youth in the juvenile justice system, according to the new study in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. Both girls and boys showed similar levels of externalizing and internalizing behavior once family dysfunction was taken into account. Such a relationship was not found in White families. In addition, Black girls show more externalizing, such as “acting out” behaviors, than other groups.

The authors of the research said: “Families may matter in a different way for African-American youth than what we’re finding for White youth. We are now trying to identify exactly what is different in African-American families that affects whether youth internalize or externalize problems and how best to help them. This means identifying those family strengths that buffer against these problem behaviors as well as focusing on family risk factors that increase the likelihood of these difficulties.”