Date of Conferral





Public Health


Michael G. Schwab


Homicide is a serious public health crisis in the United States, and it has long-term health, psychological, economic, and social implications to society, including disproportionately impacting one group. Among young African American males between the ages 15–24, homicide is the leading cause of death,. Much has been written about this phenomenon, but the voices of the young men directly involved are rarely heard. The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to investigate youth violence and homicide through the lens of male African Americans aged 18-24 living in one low-income community in Chicago, with the objective of understanding why Black male youth and young men kill other young Black males. The socioecological model shaped the framework for this study. In-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with a small sample of 5 participants and analyzed using Colaizzi’s methods. The young men in this study were raised in unstable, mostly single-parent homes, and all grew up in a traumatizing culture of poverty and violence. They expressed feeling a lack of safety in their world, distressing educational experiences, and an early obligation to provide for their families. Since work opportunities are few, all were drawn into drug trafficking - the ‘Hustle’ - where strict codes of masculinity and ‘respect’ are observed and are often the immediate causes of gun violence. Given that the findings in this study are not immutable, a public health approach would likely require collaboration between schools, social service, and community health organizations to address the complex web of factors that lend support to this violence.