Growing up in rural North Carolina, Trenette Clark watched as some loved ones went to jail at young ages and others lost their children to the Child Welfare System.
She came to wonder why some drug users’ behavior spirals into a vortex of addiction and why those exposed to the same drug can have very different experiences from one another. She also wondered why so much research was restricted to one race.
After receiving a $829,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health, Clark, a UNC professor of social work, hopes to answer these questions and many more, specifically questions surrounding the practically untouched topic of biracial adolescents.
“I think we’ve kind of been masking differences within groups by saying all these people are black or all these people are white,” Clark said.
Clark said substance abuse among biracial adolescents could have a trend resembling a combination of trends among races.
“My research suggests that a child who identifies as being both black and white, their substance use prevalence rate might fall in between the child who identifies as only black and the child who identifies as only white,” she said.
“So there seems to be a kind of blending effect between the two races.”
By identifying these trends, Clark and her research assistant Monique Smith, a first-year master’s student in social work, hope to target the most effective methods in adolescent drug abuse prevention.
One of Smith’s primary jobs as a research assistant is coordinating prevention events at local middle and high schools.