On the Use of Race and Ethnicity as Variables in Violence Research

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Abstract

Race and ethnicity are important social constructs. However, they are also complex constructs, and handling them appropriately and without bias in scientific research remains a challenge. This editorial identifies some limitations of common approaches to using race and ethnicity merely as “social address” markers. The need to consider ways that race, ethnicity, and related constructs such as national origin might vary outside the United States is also addressed. Fourteen specific suggestions are offered for ways to improve the handling of race and ethnicity in psychology research, with a specific focus on the topic of violence research. These include fairly simple steps, such as using racial and ethnic designations as adjectives, not nouns, and providing detailed racial and ethnic membership for your entire sample without collapsing across dissimilar groups just because they are few in number. Others are more resource-intensive steps, such as adopting sampling frames that will lead to more diverse samples or greater inclusion of understudied groups. With specific regard to violence research, we need more research on topics such as hate crimes, cultural adaptations of prevention and intervention programs, and evaluations of whether prevention and intervention work equally well across racial and ethnic groups.

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