Academic journal article Negro Educational Review

Predicting Educational Risks among Court-Involved Black Males: Family, Peers, and Mental Health Issues

Academic journal article Negro Educational Review

Predicting Educational Risks among Court-Involved Black Males: Family, Peers, and Mental Health Issues

Article excerpt


Disproportionately large numbers of Black youth experience repeated encounters with the juvenile justice system, and often these same youth present with a variety of school-related difficulties. Data from a sample of 842 Black males, assessed in five Ohio juvenile courts using the Global Risk Assessment Device (GRAD), are used to describe the different types of educational risks faced by these youth, including factors concerned with classroom behavior, student learning, and threats to academic progress. Additionally, the results of multivariate analyses are presented that provide support for the notion that disrupted family processes, delinquent peer associations, and mental health issues in combination present a compelling picture of factors associated with both in-class behavior and educational setbacks. At the same time, information is generated that points to the unique influence of mental health issues on learning difficulties faced by these court-involved youth.


Juvenile courts in the United States continue to process nearly two million delinquency cases a year (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1999; 2002) and adolescents are at greater risk of becoming both perpetrators and victims of violence than any other age group (Archwamety & Katsiyannis, 1999). Katsiyannis, Ryan, Zhang, and Spann (2008) reported that juvenile arrests accounted for approximately 16% of all arrests and 15% of all violent criminal offenses in 2003. At the same time, the overrepresentation of minority youth in these statistics has been documented (e.g., Bishop & Frazer, 1988; DeJong & Jackson, 1998). Whereas Blacks make up approximately 15% of the total United States youth population, they represent about 25% of all juvenile arrests and approximately 40% of juvenile detention populations (e.g., Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1999; Snyder, 2001; 2005). Further, while female arrests have been rising (e.g., Poe-Yamagata & Butts, 1996), boys still represent approximately 80% of all delinquency cases handled by juvenile courts in the United States.

Hence , the combination of being young , Black , and male creates a profile of some adolescents in the United States most at risk for delinquent activity that comes to the attention of the juvenile justice system. The long-term implications of this risk are staggering as more than a decade ago, Lotke (1998) demonstrated that half of all urban Black males aged 18 to 35 were under the supervision of the criminal justice system. For Black males this rate is alarming, particularly, in view of the fact that the total Black U.S. population is only about 12% (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000a). Also, Bonczar (2003) reported that of the total male U.S. population in 2001 aged 18 to 24 (1.1% White, 8.5% Black, 4.0% Hispanic), aged 25 to 34 (2.8% White, 20.4% Black, 9.0% Hispanic), and aged 35 to 44 (3.5% White, 22.0% Black, 10.0% Hispanic) were incarcerated. The finding that 43.3% of Whites, 38.7% of Blacks, and 16.1% of Hispanics are jailed inmates (Sourcebook of Criminal Justice, 2007) raises questions related to delinquent behavior and incarceration rates when related to Black males.

For many years, researchers have suggested that there is a relationship between juvenile delinquency and education or academic achievement. Studies have concluded that educational issues are associated with both delinquent behavior and recidivistic activity in adolescent populations (e.g., Hawkins, Catalano, & Miller, 1992; Jenkins, 1995; Siegel & Senna, 1994). Further, it has been argued that poor academic performance is related to both the onset and prevalence of delinquency, such that children experiencing lower academic performance are at least twice as likely to engage in delinquent behaviors as their high academic performance peers (Maguin & Loeber, 1996). In turn, youth displaying lower academic performance and higher rates of delinquency during high school are more likely to drop out altogether (Lawrence, 1991 ; Smith, 2000). …

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