Barbershop program helps reduce violence in P. to reduce


A coping skills program with young black men in Philadelphia hair salons helped reduce reported violent behavior for up to three months, according to a study published by the American Psychological Association.

The Shape Up: Barbers Building Better Brothers project involved 618 young black men who received free haircuts and grants to attend two-hour sessions with hairdressers trained as health educators at 48 barber shops in Philadelphia. Half of the hairdressers were trained to conduct a violence reduction intervention, while the other half focused on HIV / STD reduction skills. The men (ages 18-24) were randomly assigned to one of the two groups, with both interventions involving confidential questionnaires, face-to-face interviews, and iPad role-playing games.

The program is one of a growing line of such programs that hair and beauty salons are using to improve the health of members of the black community. “Barbershops and beauty salons in the black community were places of protest but also healing,” said co-researcher Howard Stevenson, PhD, Constance Clayton Professor of Urban Education and African Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. “Black men will share things in a hair salon that they won’t tell a therapist or preacher. The stories they tell are very intimate and personal and these are the places you want to be, to help people deal with emotional and physical trauma. “

Researchers worked with a local community council to build trust and gain input on violence reduction intervention that was culturally tailored to racial and gender identity by addressing racism, negative male identity stereotypes, violence, and stress. The project consisted of follow-up meetings with the participants three months, six months and one year after the first meetings. The study was published online in Psychology of man and masculinity.

The participants in the violence reduction group reported significantly fewer physical confrontations with strangers, partners and peers every three months, but not after six months or one year. Participants were more likely to report less physical fighting when they were more aware that black men are at increased risk of violence, discrimination, and financial hardship.

The researchers were surprised that the HIV / STD intervention control group had similar results, with fewer fighting reported after three months but not for longer periods. The research team believes that similar results could have emerged because reducing violence and risky sexual behavior requires similar coping strategies that include emotional regulation and behavioral restriction.

“These are relational dynamics about how you deal with stress, disagreements, and your identity in relationships,” said Stevenson. “It is not so different to understand how you talk to your partner about sexual behavior than how you negotiate” [with] someone who challenges your manhood. Coping with stress is the key. “

The researchers recommended ongoing and longer intervention sessions for more lasting effects on reducing violence. Findings on a reduction in risky sexual behavior for the HIV / STD control group will be included in a later study, they said.

“We are interested in how you deal with the politics of violence caused by the hostility of racism in our society,” said Stevenson. “Barbers can help teach coping because they are invisible heroes who have done a lot to prevent violence and tragedy in the black community, including by talking to opposing gang members in the same barber shop.”

Of the 618 attendees, 38% were employed, 48% had graduated from high school, and 80% had a monthly income of less than $ 851. The study only included heterosexual participants as funding from the National Institutes of Health targeted straight black men, so the results may not generalize to gay, non-binary, or transgender black men.

Stevenson is now looking to develop a broader community-based racial literacy program that includes training hairdressers and beauticians to become health educators to work with other community leaders such as local trainers, police officers, teachers and shopkeepers.

Under pressure from the Black Lives Matter movement, politicians in many cities across the country are funding alternative programs to reduce violence rather than relying solely on the police. However, many of these programs neglect culturally engaging strategies and lack reliable means of measuring their success or scientific evidence to support them, Stevenson said.

“Black Lives Matter and anti-racism approaches are so important because they can benefit any evidence-based model that doesn’t take into account culture, race, or the daily experiences of blacks and browns,” said Stevenson. “The universal narratives in science often preclude culturally unique healing sites and practices for blacks and browns in the construction of research theories and methodologies, and researchers and clinicians have to catch up.”

Items: “Shape-Up: Effectiveness of a Culturally Appealing Barbershop-Based Intervention RCT to Reduce Violence for Young Black Men”, Howard C. Stevenson, PhD, John B. Jemmott III, PhD, Shawn L. White, PhD, Deepti Chittamuru, PhD, and Soojong Kim, PhD, University of Pennsylvania; Loretta S. Jemmott, PhD, Drexel University; Lloyd M. Talley, PhD, University of Michigan; Larry D. Icard, PhD, Temple University; and Ann O’Leary, PhD, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Psychology of man and masculinity, published online November 4, 2021.

Contact: Howard Stevenson, PhD can be contacted at [email protected]

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