Punitive versus Medicalized Responses to Childhood Behavior Problems and High School Graduation

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There are significant racial and socioeconomic disparities in the use of suspensions and therapy/medication for childhood behavior problems. These disparities exacerbate inequalities elsewhere, including academic achievement. In addition, the unequal distribution of child social control also raises the question of whether unobserved heterogeneity between suspended and medicated children may explain the benefits of therapy/medication as an approach to child social control. In this study, I use data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979–Child and Young Adult Survey to examine the relationship between early suspension or therapy/medication and high school graduation. Results of logistic regression models show that suspended children have lower odds of graduation than non-suspended/non-medicated children and children who only received therapy/medication. However, results of sibling comparison models that better condition on unobserved factors associated with child social control and academic achievement yield no significant differences in the odds of high school graduation across medicated and suspended siblings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-227
Number of pages27
JournalSociological Perspectives
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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