"Intensifying disciplinary strategies -- what some have called the criminalization of school discipline -- may do more harm than good and could result in more crime in schools, neighbourhoods and communities," said Thomas James Mowen, assistant professor of sociology at Bowling Green State University.
Mowen and colleagues studied to what extent being suspended from middle and high school was a turning point that led to more deviant behaviour.
AThey also examined whether school suspensions, the most common response to youth's misbehaviour at school, amplified the likelihood that adolescents would offend as they grew into young adults.
Offending was defined as attacking or assaulting someone, possessing a gun, selling illegal substances, destroying property and stealing.
The study found that exclusionary school discipline (suspensions) increased subsequent offending, substantially amplifying deviant behaviour as the youth moved through adolescence and into adulthood. Repeated suspensions further amplified subsequent offending.
The researchers took into account a variety of factors that influence offending behaviour, including whether youth dropped out of school, how youth felt about their schools (whether they felt safe, though their teachers were interested in them, believed school discipline was fair), how they felt about their families and their families' income.
"The findings point to the need for school officials and policymakers to recognize the negative consequences of these approaches, examine the underlying causes of students' behaviour and change how we manage that misbehaviour," said Mowen.