Boys of Color Collaboration - Studying What Goes Right

The Boys of Color Collaboration is a multi-university collaboration focused on engaging developing scholars to focus on positive youth development approaches to studying effective development of boys of color. Senior investigators with rich, pertinent longitudinal data sets are collaborating with scholars at various stages in their careers to undertake secondary analyses to improve the quality and extent of empirical knowledge about this important and under-studied population.


Non-white males are most at risk for school failure, early involvement with the criminal justice system, early mortality and a host of other problems. But, as we know, young men of color can succeed. Despite this, there is remarkably little attention to how the majority of these young men effectively cope, succeed, and make meaningful contributions to our society.

The center's Boys of Color Collaboration is intended to address the lack of such knowledge by bringing together scholars to conduct secondary data analyses and produce empirical knowledge rapidly. Senior scientists, early career faculty, and graduate students are working together to produce scientific articles, presentations, and new studies to improve understanding about the best ways to reduce these disparities and enable capabilities for young men of color. 

The collaboration leadership is comprised of Patrick Tolan of the Youth-Nex Center, Joanna Lee Williams of Rutgers University, Oscar Barbarin of Tulane University, Velma McBride Murry of Vanderbilt University, and Sandra Graham of the University of California at Los Angeles. 

Recent Work: 

In 2016, the collaboration authored a Social Policy Report as a response to President Obama’s 2014 My Brother Keeper Initiative (MBKI) entitled “Development of Boys and Young Men of Color: Implications of Developmental Science for My Brother’s Keeper Initiative.” MBKI called for action among diverse representatives of society to collate information, propose policies, and implement programs to give boys and young men of color (BMOC) a more positive developmental trajectory. It focuses on five of six goals of the MBKI, summarizing the research on each and proposing recommendations for influencing policy. The report was published by the Society for Research in Child Development.

Other recent publications of this collaboration include:

Gaylord-Harden, N. K., Barbarin, O., Tolan, P.H., & Murray, V. M. (2018).  Understanding development of African American boys and young men:  Moving from risks to positive youth development.  American Psychologist, 73, 753–767.

Tolan, P.H., Murry, V.M., Diaz, A. & Seidel, R.  (2017).  Identifying and implementing opportunities to realize health equity through a life span lens and legal policy research.  In K. Bogard, V. M. Murry & C. Alexander (Eds.), Perspectives on health equity and social determinants of health.   (pp 25-40).  Washington, DC: National Academy of Medicine.

Associated Faculty:

  • Project Team
    Headshot of Patrick H. Tolan
    Patrick H. Tolan Charles S. Robb Professor of Education, Director Emeritus, Youth-Nex | The UVA Center to Promote Effective Youth Development