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Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2021

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Social Work

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Community violence exposure (CVE) among Black emerging adults ages 18-29 in the United States is a major public health concern. However, an unknown is the nature of the relationship between Black emerging adults CVE and substance use when the perpetrator(s) of the violence are the police and the violence is experienced as a race-based traumatic event. The Classes of Racism Frequency of Racial Experiences (CRFRE) measure assesses individuals’ exposure to perceived racism-based events. However, the CRFRE hostile-racism scale does not capture the range of police violent events that are most salient for a population. To fill the noted gaps in science, this dissertation conducted focus groups and cognitive interviews to develop key survey items capturing exposure to perceived racism-based police violence that were added to the CRFRE hostile racism scale and examined the mediating role of race-based trauma symptoms in the relationship between exposure to racism-based police violence and substance use for a sample of Black emerging adults in St. Louis, Missouri (n = 344). Participant narratives from focus groups and cognitive interviews generated 16 survey items capturing exposure to racism-based police violence. The modified CRFRE measure showed strong psychometric properties and results revealed that avoidance was a significant mediator in the relationship between exposure to hostile police violence racism and illicit drug use problems. This dissertation advances our methodology for quantifying exposure to perceived racism-based police violence and elucidates specific pathways to illicit drug use problems that can be targeted by behavioral health professionals working with Black emerging adults.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Sean Joe

Committee Members

Amy McQueen, Kathleen Bucholz, Ross Brownson, Tonya Edmond,

Available for download on Sunday, May 15, 2022