Minor Infractions Are Not Minor: School Infractions for Minor Misconduct May Increase Adolescents' Defiant Behavior and Contribute to Racial Disparities in School Discipline
2020; 75 (1): 23–36
Although minor misconduct is normative in adolescence, such behavior may be met with punishment in American schools. As part of a punitive disciplinary approach, teachers may give adolescents official infractions for minor misconduct-that is, a minor infraction-presumably to deter future problem behavior. This article investigates three arguments that challenge the wisdom of this assumption and considers the potentially detrimental effects of minor infractions: (a) minor infractions increase, rather than deter, adolescents' defiant behavior; (b) these effects are exacerbated among adolescents who are highly attached to school; and (c) teachers' punishment of minor misconduct may be racially biased, resulting in African American students receiving more minor infractions than White students. To test these hypotheses, 729 adolescents' school disciplinary records were analyzed over 1 academic year. Longitudinal multilevel analyses were conducted to assess (a) if receiving minor infractions predicted later increases in infractions for defiant behavior at the within-student level, (b) whether adolescents' attachment to school moderated this association, and (c) if a disparity existed between African American and White students' average level of minor infractions. Results indicated that minor infractions predicted subsequent rises in defiant behavior, and this link was exacerbated for adolescents who reported initially high levels, but not low levels, of school attachment. Furthermore, African American students received more minor infractions than White students, controlling for a host of risk factors for school misconduct. Findings are discussed in relation to American school discipline policies and African Americans' persistent overrepresentation in school discipline and the criminal justice system. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).
View details for DOI 10.1037/amp0000475
View details for Web of Science ID 000506339300002
View details for PubMedID 31081648