Why is Project Butterfly Necessary?
Minority adolescent girls have been disproportionately affected by under-achievement due to low self-esteem. This condition of low self-esteem is accompanied by a number of psycho-social risk factors. These include: lack of education, no or under-employment, ill health, substance abuse, pregnancy, as well as risky sexual behaviors. Compounded with issues of cultural displacement and lack of a stable support system, some minority girls not only struggle with defining themselves, but also lack basic survival skills that can further thwart the normal and healthy development of a productive and secure self identity.
Current research on adolescent violence and delinquency considers how social, class, race, ethnicity, and culture interact to cause young women to behave violently (Chesney-Lind & Shelden, 1998). It also helps explain why girls join gangs: to develop skills to survive in their harsh communities and temporarily escape a dismal future. Because they have not developed their own personal life’s mission and focus, they become vulnerable to gang recruitment and influence (Campbell, 1991; Chesney-Lind & Joe, 1995). Adolescent females jailed for crimes, compared with their male counterparts, are much more likely to report previous sexual or physical abuse, ranging from 40 percent to 70 percent of respondents in various surveys (Artz, 1998; Chesney-Lind & Sheldon, 1998; Koroki & Chesney-Lind, 1985), Violent young women are more likely to come from troubled or violent families. Their home life, characterized by poverty, divorce, parental death, abandonment, alcoholism, and frequent abuse, leaves them quick to be angry, harbor distrust, and exact revenge via gang violence (Artz, 1998; Koroki& Chesney-Lind, 1985).
Black girls ages 12-18 are twice as likely to be the victims of violence compared to any other group of young people, according to the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.
According to the medical journal Pediatrics in April of 1997, the average age for either breasts or pubic hair showing up is 8.1 years for African American girls. Approximately 50 percent of African American girls between the ages of 8 and 9 have either breasts or pubic hair. These girls are usually in third grade.
African American adolescent girls in steady, ongoing relationships have greater frequencies of unprotected sex, suggests a study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
Black children are nine times more likely to have an incarcerated parent than white children. Black children represented 43 percent of children of incarcerated mothers in 1992, 52 percent of which were female children [Bloom, Steinhart, 1993]
Most teens get pregnant on purpose because other life goals seem out of reach. [Cornell University, 1997]
Project Butterfly Research Results
In January 2005, GiShawn Mance, a PH.D candidate at DePaul University conducted research in support of her dissertation on a program based solely on Project Butterfly measuring the effectiveness and efficacy in keeping with Best Practice guidelines.
The main findings of this study suggested that a culturally- and gender-relevant intervention enhanced cultural values. As expected, girls who participated in Project Butterfly reported higher levels of African-centered values than those who did not participate in the interventions. Therefore, it appears that Project Butterfly, which was specifically designed for African American adolescent girls and rooted in African cultural values, did enhance the girls’ knowledge and identification with cultural values. This finding is consistent with previous studies that found an increase in the use of Afri-cultural coping skills with the implementation of an African cultural-based program (Woods & Jagers, 2003). Previous research has connected African-centered values to enhanced moral development (Woods & Jagers, 2003), healthy personal and social functioning (Thomas et al., 2003), and positive sense of race (Gavazzi et al., 1996). Given the positive effects associated with the internalization of cultural values, the increase in cultural values in this study provides support to the importance of Project Butterfly and culturally-based and culturally-relevant interventions.
Given the positive effects associated with the internalization of cultural values, the increase in cultural values in this study provides support to the importance of Project Butterfly and culturally-based and culturally-relevant interventions. The finding lends support to the efficacy of the program; essentially, it provides credence that Project Butterfly conveyed the African cultural values that it purported to teach. It presupposes that interventions catering to the cultural facets of a group are more apt to transmit the groups’ cultural knowledge. African cultural values were related to higher levels of ethnic identity for this population.
This suggests that when adolescents are exposed to African- centered values they form a stronger sense of identity with their group (social), are able to appreciate physical characteristics that are inherently African (appearance), as well as, develop a sense of community (cooperation). This finding holds strong implication for culturally relevant interventions in that emphasizing values consistent with one’s culture enhances the extent to which one feels positively toward their ethnic group.
On May 16, 2006, GiShawn Mance defended her dissertation research on Project Butterfly, and became Dr. GiShawn Mance. Dr. Mance and Niambi Jaha-Echols co-authored a chapter in the recently released SUNY Press book project: “African Americans and Community Engagement in Higher Education” (released September 2009)