NAVIGATING VIOLENCE IN CHICAGO NEIGHBORHOODS: HOW HIGH-ACHIEVING ADOLESCENT AFRICAN AMERICAN MALES MAP VIOLENCE AND STAY FOCUSED ON SCHOOL
ABSTRACT: African American males in violent neighborhoods constantly make decisions about how to navigate violence, a process known as cognitive mapping. Community violence can be a barrier to the physical and emotional well-being of African American male students in their pursuit of education. In this qualitative study of 18 high-achieving African American adolescent males in Chicago, we examine how young African American adolescent males navigate community violence and stay focused on school. We argue that the ways in which participants cognitively map their neighborhoods provides them with bicultural scripts and frames that allow them to remain connected enough to people and places in the neighborhood to be protected yet distant enough to remain focused on school. Findings indicate that participants’ resilient nature affects how and why they map their neighborhood. Implications of cognitive mapping for navigating community violence and school are discussed.
Desmond Patton's research is broadly focused on urban African American male development and identity. He is specifically interested in the mechanisms and processes underlying how African American adolescent males respond to community violence exposure and its impact on developmental and life course outcomes. Patton’s work takes into account how relationships between social networks, neighborhood conditions and social support impact how African-American males navigate physical and virtual spaces. As a qualitative researcher, Patton has interest in narrative and case-study based approaches to unpacking the lived experiences of urban African American males.