Abstract: Early Discipline Disparities: A Scoping Review on Disproportionate Discipline in US Early Childhood Education and Care (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

560P Early Discipline Disparities: A Scoping Review on Disproportionate Discipline in US Early Childhood Education and Care

Saturday, January 15, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Megan Ronnenberg, MSW, PhD Student, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA
Alyssa Clayden, MSW, Graduate Assistant, University of Iowa, IA
Background: Approximately 67,000 children annually, or 250 per day, are suspended or expelled from daycare or preschool. Although we know that Black children are more than 2.5 times more likely to experience suspension and expulsion (S&E) in daycare or preschool, there has been shockingly little research on the causes and correlates of this disparity. Given their vulnerable age, the disproportionate S&E of young Black children may put them at an increased risk for negative outcomes including mental health issues, social isolation, and involvement in the juvenile justice system. Consequently, early childhood S&E may play an important role in the reproduction of racial inequality throughout the lifespan. Despite the deleterious consequences of S&E and the increased risk for Black children, there is scant empirical or theoretical literature focusing on the racial disparity in early childhood S&E. The purpose of this scoping review was to gather evidence and identify gaps in the research related to the disproportionate rates of S&E among young Black children.

Method: Scoping reviews are exploratory and an appropriate approach when the purpose of a review is to identify knowledge gaps, clarify key concepts or theories, and define the scope of a body of literature. We followed Arksey and O’Malley’s (2003) method for conducting a scoping review, including five steps: 1) Identifying research question(s); 2) Literature search and identifying relevant studies; 3) Study screening; 4) Data charting; and 5) Summarizing results. The initial search was conducted with search phrases like “expulsion and suspension in [early childhood care and education; daycare; childcare]” and “discipline of Black children in [early childhood care and education; daycare; childcare]”, using five electronic databases: Education Source, ERIC, ProQuest, PsychInfo, and Sociological Abstracts. After duplicates were removed, we conducted abstract screening on 459 articles, and full text screening on 121 articles.

Results: Full text review yielded 39 articles related to disproportionate S&E of young Black children. Only six studies (all published since 2019) focused specifically on the disproportionate discipline of Black children ages five and under. In contrast, 12 articles on overall early childhood suspension and expulsion were published since 2017.

A majority of studies included samples of children in PreK-12 schools (n= 30) and several had samples ranging from either birth or Kindergarten to age nine. Most studies focused on the within- and between-school differences in disproportionate discipline, the role of student or teacher diversity, or child behaviors as impetus for discipline. There was strong evidence that race intersects with gender and disability status to put young Black boys with disabilities (particularly ADHD) at a much higher risk of S&E.

Conclusion: Results highlight the dearth of literature on disproportionate S&E among Black children in early childhood. Most of the evidence on disproportionate S&E among young Black children comes from samples of children from ages 4 to 18, which is problematic given the differing needs of children as they age. Before we can solve the problem of disproportionate S&E among young Black children, we need researchers to examine the mechanisms that lead to disparate disciplinary practices.