Gary Sweeten utilized the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 to research an understudied element of high school drop out rates, using the factors of criminal involvement, specifically first-time arrests and involvement in the court system. He then examined the outcome of their completion of high school after these events. In the article “Who will graduate? Disruption of high school education by arrest and court involvement”, theoretical approaches are tied into more statistical data to encompass a more comprehensive view of the issues surrounding juvenile arrests and court involvement on future school success.This study is extremely useful, in that the populations studied were more broad, as studies before have honed in on specific subsets of school populations. 8,984 youths were qualified for this study and assessments were conducted in the selected group. Several follow-up study waves were then conducted after initial selection, the first being obtaining background information, then over a period of three years, self-reports by the cohorts and their court involvement was assessed followed by drop-out statistics on this group.
4,432, who reported dropping out of high school were then analyzed. Theories that came into play to assist in the process of assembling data were labeling theory, deterrence theory, and propensity theory. Propensity theory was dismissed in that it gauged no correlative and valid results. Labeling theory and deterrence theory pose results that range on the opposite ends of the spectrum with deterrence theory proposing success in stopping future criminal activity, but gives no regard to educational and vocational achievement in the long-run.
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Therefore, labeling theory emerged as the most crucial with the idea presented that students, who feel stigmatized, will struggle with that stigma and with interruptions of schooling due to the criminal process and will face overwhelming odds to complete high school. Sampson and Laub’s life-course theory of cumulative disadvantage is also introduced, as is 39 other references and 5 tables to show the extent of analysis and the found effects in this article.
Sampson and Laub’s theory furthers the labeling theory that is used throughout the paper and suggests that labeling is especially detrimental to already disadvantaged youth. In other words, if one already carries a label of poor or any minority status, the label of “criminal” will accelerate negative internal attributions of self-worth. Sweeten uses both traditional labeling theory and Sampson and Laub’s assessments not only to compliment his findings in the paper, but to also suggest irregularities with particular points that do not correlate.
This leads Sweeten to realize that with both the limited amount of studies already completed on this particular subject without a broad base of research subjects, as he uses, and the lack of consensus among different theorists, that more research need be done on this topic. He realizes that looking at mediating factors and certain types of intervention may lead to studies that have a conclusive and usable strategy in its findings that will ameliorate the issues that he concludes in this study.
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