Date of Award

Fall 12-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Sociology & Criminal Justice


Criminology and Criminal Justice

Committee Director

Elizabeth Monk-Turner

Committee Member

Melvina Sumter

Committee Member

Kaprea Johnson

Committee Member

Randy Gainey


In the education system, African American youth are confronted by deficit-based narratives of intellectual inferiority and defiance that inform teaching pedagogies, curricula, and classroom management strategies, such as school discipline practices. In light of available research documenting the deleterious effects of low expectations and treatment by teachers on the academic outcomes of African American youth, this body of knowledge also underscores the importance of racial socialization and positive perceptions of school bonding in safeguarding the academic achievement and success of African American youth. However, the lack of criminological inquiry into the complex associations between perceptions of differential treatment by teachers, perceptions of school bonding, negative emotions, behavior (i.e., deviant and prosocial), involvement in school discipline, and grades, particularly amongst a nationally representative sample of African American youth, represents a gap in available literature. Hence, the current study adds to the current literature by utilizing general strain theory (GST), a criminological perspective associating strain and deviance, and a conceptual framework of race-based traumatic stress (RBTS) to explore these complex associations for a nationally representative sample of African American youth. Using data from the National Survey of American Life (NSAL), Adolescent Supplement for 2001-2004, findings from this study suggest that perceptions of differential treatment from teachers is a risk factor for the underachievement of African American youth, particularly for those youth who ‘act out’ in response to their negative emotions and weakened school bonds. Nevertheless, findings reveal that receiving messages promoting Black pride and possessing strong school bonds that encourage student engagement negates the deleterious effects of perceived differential treatment by teachers on the academic achievement of African American youth. When considered with opportunities to continue learning, school suspension results in positive academic outcomes. Thus, findings from this study reinforce the need to eradicate deficit-based narratives of underachievement and failure through counternarratives of resilience and success and improvements to school climate. This study further points to the need for criminological theorizing within education research.


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