«The Social Control of Childhood Behavior via Criminalization or Medicalization: Why Race Matters DISSERTATION Presented in Partial Fulfillment of the ...»
Furthermore, as trends have unfolded over the past twenty-five years, clear racial disparities are emerging. Indeed, African-American boys are much more likely to have been suspended or expelled from school than White boys. On the other hand, as suspension and expulsion rates increased nationwide, White boys are avoiding harsh discipline altogether. Furthermore, despite have slightly lower levels of externalizing behavior symptoms White boys are much more likely than African-Americans to be treated for behavior problems. As child behavior becomes social constructed with the intent of control, problem behavior of White boys is rarely criminalized in the same as problem behavior in African-American boys. Instead, they use therapy or medication to medicalize their problem behavior. As a result, White boys with behavior problems may be in a better position than African-American boy to avoid long-term involvement with crime and the criminal justice system.
Chapter 3: The Consequences of Official Labeling in Childhood: The Influence of Race, Early School Punishment, and Therapy/Medication on Criminalized and Medicalized Trajectories of Social Control Over the past quarter century, scholars have documented two trends in the social control of child problem behavior in the United States - a growing reliance on suspension and expulsion as punishment and deterrence for those who misbehave in public schools and a growing number of school-aged children receiving medical diagnoses and therapy or medication for behavioral disorders. As rates of suspension almost doubled over the past thirty years, the proportion of African-American boys being removed from their classrooms grew from 6 percent to 24 percent, while remaining relatively stable for White boys (Bertrand and Pan 2013; Losen and Martinez 2013). At the same time, a growing number of children’s behaviors are being defined as medically diagnosed conditions, including conduct disorder (Frick and Nigg 2012; Conrad 2013), oppositional defiant disorder (Frick and Nigg 2012), and ADHD (Barkley 1997; Conrad 2007).
Unlike trends in school punishment, African-American boys are less likely than White boys to seek out and receive therapy or medication for behavior disorders, only doing so when behavior problems are extremely severe and frequent (Miller, Nigg, and Miller 2009; Morgan et al. 2013). As a result, the misbehavior of young African-American males is socially constructed in ways that are fundamentally different than those of young White males. These racial disparities in how child problem behavior is defined and managed through punishment or medication potentially set African-American and White males up for different life-course trajectories.
One such possibility is that racial variation in the social construction of child problem behavior contributes to racially patterned experiences with institutions of social control across the life-course. For example, criminologists and other social scientists propose that early school punishment sets the stage for long-term involvement with the criminal justice system, including leading to repeated convictions, probation, and incarceration (Hirschfield 2008a; Simon 2007). Similarly, medical sociologists suggest that the early use of therapy and medication may contribute to long-term involvement with the mental health system, including the use of psychotropic drugs and psychoanalysis to control behavior and temper in adulthood (Conrad 2007; Link and Phelan 2006). Consequently, White males who use therapy and medication may be able to avoid school punishment and possibly escape long-term involvement with the criminal justice system. However, because of factors associated with therapy and medication for behavior problems, their adult lives may instead involve long-term use of psychotropic drugs and routine visits to therapy.
This project uses almost twenty years of panel data and a group-based trajectory modeling strategy to examine how the social construction of child problem behavior functions as a foundation for different life-course experiences when it comes to managing behavior problems during adolescence and young adulthood. Specifically, I conceptualize repeated and routine contact with the criminal justice and mental health systems as two separate trajectories of social control during adolescence and young adulthood. I then take advantage of the multinomial logistic make-up of group-based modeling to examine the independent and cumulative consequences of race, punishment, and therapy or medication during childhood on the likelihood of following different lifecourse trajectories of social control, characterized by either contact with the criminal justice system or the mental health system.
By using group-based trajectory models to describe the social control experiences of adolescent and young adult males as trajectories of social control, this project make several contributions to life-course sociological research. I continue to bring together prior theoretical work from criminology and medical sociology on the role of labeling and racial disparities in criminal and mental health trajectories respectively.
Additionally, group based models takes advantage of the longitudinal nature of the data, allowing for the examination of how racial disparities in punishment and therapy/medication during childhood contribute to racial disparities in life-course trajectories of social control throughout young adulthood. Typically, research on the implications of school punishment has been limited to short-term, qualitative studies of children and their experiences during childhood and early adolescence (e.g. Ferguson 2001; Kupchik 2010; Rios 2011). Similarly, most scholarship on therapy and medication are limited to short-term effects on behavior, school performance, and other indicators of well-being during childhood and adolescence (Barkley 1997; 2002; Rafalovich 2013).
Not only am I able to take a longer life-course perspective on these issues, but I am able to compare and contrast the long-term implications of two different types of responses to child misbehavior, each aimed at controlling behavior through different methods (Conrad 1992a; Medina and McCranie 2011). Most social science research has been unable to disentangle the consequences of punishment or the efficacy of therapy or medication from underlying behavioral traits (Fletcher and Wolfe 2013; Rafalovich 2013). Therefore, despite the connection between school punishment and medically diagnosed behavior problems among children, scholars have yet to test how or whether they influence individuals’ experiences with social control institutions over the lifecourse (Behnken et al. 2014; Bernburg 2009). Finally, group-based models allow the researcher to test the probability of entry into certain social control trajectory groups as a function of time-stable variables such as race and the labeling of childhood behavior (Jones and Nagin 2007;2013; Nagin 2005; Nagin and Jones 2012). This strategy allows me to assess the independent and cumulative influences of race and labeling on criminalization and medicalization over the life course (Jones and Nagin 2007; 2013).
Because White boys and African-American boys are likely to experience fundamentally different labeling events during childhood, the accumulative influence of race and labeling on entrance into different social control trajectories is extremely important to consider (Rios 2009).
Using panel data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth – Child and Young Adult Survey and a group-based modeling strategy, this paper this project answers three important questions about how the social construction of child problem behavior contributes to criminalized or medicalized trajectories of social control across adolescence and young adulthood. First, do African-American and White males follow different trajectories of social control throughout emerging adulthood? Second, does school punishment and/or the use of therapy or medication for behavior problems during childhood influence the likelihood of following different trajectories of social control during young adulthood? Third, do racial disparities in labeling in childhood contribute to racial disparities in trajectories of social control experienced during adolescence and young adulthood?
Conceptual Framework Criminalization and Medicalization as Life-Course Trajectories Prior research on crime and offending over the life-course suggests that involvement with the criminal justice system does not necessarily follow a similar trajectory for all individuals over the life-course (Moffitt 1993; Nagin 2005; Sampson and Laub 2005). For example, a large proportion of the population will either never experience involvement with the criminal justice system or maintain an extremely low risk of coming into contact with the legal system throughout young adulthood (Nagin and Land 1993; Sampson and Laub 2005). On the other hand, another group of offenders may experience some involvement with the criminal justice system, most likely during their late teens, but tend to age out of this behavior during young adulthood (Moffitt 1993; Nagin and Land 1993; Piquero et al. 2013). A third, much smaller group of individuals will experience involvement in the criminal justice system from adolescence throughout adulthood (Moffitt 1993; Piquero et al. 2013). To help describe this phenomenon, scholars have turned to using group-based trajectory modeling, which accommodates life-course patterns of development for distinctly different subgroups in the population that follow similar pathways over time (Erosheva, Matsueda, and Telesca 2014; Nagin 2005; Nagin and Odgers 2010). Importantly, by classifying groups of individuals according to similar developmental trajectories, group-based models are helpful in describing the long-term implications of early risk factors (Nagin 2005; Nagin and Odgers 2010; Nagin and Tremblay 2005; Petts 2009).
Scholars point to school punishment and the use of therapy or medication for behavior disorders as possible risk factors that influence the nature of interactions with important social institutions during the life-course, including the criminal justice and mental health systems (Behnken et al. 2014; Kim, Losen, and Martinez 2010; Kupchik 2010). For example, because of similarities between school punishment and criminal sentencing, scholars argue that suspensions and expulsions serve to frame childhood misbehavior similar to that of criminal offenders in the legal system (Hirschfield 2008a;
Rios 2011). Much like incarceration or probation excludes and isolates criminal offenders and restricts their activities and interactions with others, suspension and expulsion removes young men from the student body and separates them from their classmates. Moreover, school punishments carry official and unofficial marks of “troublemaker” (Ferguson 2001; Simon 2007). These labels follow young men throughout their school careers, as teachers and others view them as less willing to learn and destined instead for a “prison cell” (Ferguson 2001; Rios 2009;2011). As a result, young men fall behind on schoolwork and become alienated from the education process, compounding other social, including undiagnosed or untreated behavior disorders (Kim, Losen, and Hewitt 2010; Bowditch 1993).
These young men begin to perform worse in school and are less likely than their peers to complete high school. As a result, they face a substantial risk of involvement with the juvenile justice system and potentially long-term involvement with the adult legal system (Rios 2011; Skiba et al. 2011). Criminologists and other scholars have referred to this life-course trajectory as a process of criminalization, in which some American children are pushed into the criminal justice system through exclusionary school punishment (Hirschfield 2008a; Kim, Losen, and Hewitt 2010; Rios 2009).
Instead of taking a typical educational pathway, such as moving from elementary to high school and on to college or employment, criminalized individuals experience an adolescence and adulthood characterized by insecurity and frequent contact with police and the court system (Bowditch 1993; Hirschfield 2008a; Rios 2009). Exclusionary school discipline can negatively influence school performance and increase the likelihood of school failure and dropping out of school (Bowditch 1993; Lamont et al. 2013).
Scholars connect failure to complete school with a number of factors which increase the likelihood of criminal activity, particularly a failure to find steady employment (Sum, Khatiwada, and McLaughlin 2009) and maintain conventional relationships, including marriage and friendships with non-delinquent peers (Sampson and Laub 2005).
Nearly one in ten males without a high school degree will serve jail time or probation during young adulthood (Sum, Khatiwada, and McLaughlin 2009). For African-American males, the numbers are even more striking. One in four AfricanAmerican males without a high school diploma will spend time in jail or prison at some point in their lives and over half of all incarcerated African-American males do not have a high school diploma (Sum, Khatiwada, and McLaughlin 2009: Western 2006).
While school punishment controls behavior through deterrence and retribution, the use of therapy and medication for behavior disorders uses medical and psychological techniques and technology to manage symptoms such as inattentiveness or low selfcontrol in childhood and adolescence (Behnken et al. 2014; Conrad 2007; Link and Phelan 2010). Importantly, many of these symptoms describe behaviors that are extremely similar to the behaviors that kids who get suspended display (Ferguson 2001;
Kupchik 2010). For example, a growing number of parents or teachers consider restless, impulsive, or inattentive behavior in the classroom to be a symptom of common childhood mental illnesses/behavioral disorders, such as ADHD (Conrad 2007; Conrad and Slodden 2013). As a result, the use of diagnosis, therapy, and/or psychotropic medication on children viewed as troublesome has increased substantially over the past twenty-five years (Conrad 2007).
For many children who misbehave during childhood, therapy and medication has short- and long-term benefits that help to sustain or even improve school performance, assist in managing impulse control, and keep children in the classroom (Barkley 1997;