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Who Will Graduate?: Disruption of High School Education by Arrest and Court Involvement

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 23 Issue: 4 Dated: December 2006 Pages: 462-480
Gary Sweeten
Date Published
December 2006
19 pages
Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, this study examined the effect of first-time arrest and court involvement of high-school students on their subsequent educational attainment.
The study found that a juvenile's first-time court appearance while in high school was more detrimental for his/her educational outcomes (dropping out of school) than first-time arrest without a court appearance. This finding is consistent with labeling theory, which holds that the further a juvenile penetrates into the formal criminal justice system, the more he/she is stigmatized and conditioned to have low self-esteem and a negative self-concept. This translates into alienation from mainstream values and behaviors. A court appearance was particularly detrimental to educational outcomes for youths subjected to a first-time court appearance. Data for this study were obtained from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 cohort, whose primary purpose was to track work experiences over the life-course of respondents. Background measures were obtained from either wave one or wave two of the survey. Data were obtained on youths who were below age 16 but enrolled in high school. Self-reports on arrest and court involvement were drawn from the subsequent 2 years. Dropping out of school was measured in wave four or five, 3 years after the initial measurement of background characteristics. Individuals were coded as dropouts if they had not graduated from high school and were not enrolled in school at the time of the last interview. A total of 4,432 of 8,984 youths were eligible for this analysis. 5 tables and 40 references