Locus of Control as a Contributing Factor to Youth Delinquency and Academic Failure

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Abstract

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Using a sample of adolescents, this study will investigate the relationship between locus of control and behaviours known for school dropout, suspension or expulsion, and low performance (academic failure). The sample group are students who either earn satisfactory or failing performance marks and who have experienced academic failure. Two randomly selected public schools in high poverty, high crime communities will be used for this study. Approximately, three hundred male and female students between ages 13 and 18 years will be administered a pre-test and post-test questionnaire while only one school will be selected for the crime prevention campaign. The questionnaire will record demographic data as well as answers to legal questions following the Nowicki-Strickland Locus of Control Scale for Children. This study hopes that assessing whether or not locus of control is central to youth delinquency and academic failure will add to the suggestion that in school programmes can significantly reduce these risk factors.

Introduction

Locus of Control

Locus of Control (LOC) can be defined as a belief one possesses that indicates whether or not life outcomes are within his/her control. Individuals who exhibit an internal LOC attribute an outcome resulting from their actions within their control, at least to some degree. Conversely, individuals exhibiting an external LOC attribute the outcome resulting from their actions to an external factor whether by luck, chance or within the power of others. An adolescents perception of who is in control of their life outcomes could influence their attitude, behaviour and decisions in becoming a victim of academic failure fuelling the school to prison pipeline.

Academic Failure

The school to prison pipeline (SPP) refers to educational policies and practices that transition, primarily children in poverty, from the classroom into the criminal justice system. Central to the debate of the SPP is the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which now has been succeeded by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The issue has been that government mandates for more stringent high stakes testing, accountability and fiscal responsibility is the leading cause of academic failureszero tolerance policies, exclusionary discipline practices and dropout known factors that lead to juvenile delinquency.

Juvenile Delinquency

Juvenile delinquency is of mass proportion both in America and aboard. Children entering the juvenile justice system are between the ages of 9 and 17. In England and Wales, 167,995 young people between the ages of 10-17 years were arrested at the close of the 2011-2012 fiscal year. This number, however, is far lower than America who saw 1,470,000 total juvenile arrests in 2011.

Educational Programmes

The recent Black Lives Matter movement for justice in the police killing of black men have drawn global attention to the issues plaguing police officers and citizens in largely high poverty, high crime communities. Both groups are looking for ways to resolve their conflictthe end to police brutality and crime. One solution that may prove to create a dialogue amongst this demographics is an in school education programme. A recent survey of police chiefs revealed that they placed significant value on early learning as a crime prevention tool rather than incarcerating juveniles and metal detector placement in schools."

Research Question

Will a crime prevention campaign targeting adolescents moderate locus of control to mitigate existing or prevent future delinquent behaviours and academic failure?

Research Objective

The objective of the study would be to determine whether the locus of control (LOC) contributes to youth delinquency and also whether administration of crime prevention campaign to adolescents can moderate the LOC to mitigate and prevent future delinquent behaviours as well as academic failure.

Rationale

This study will explore locus of control as a factor in adolescent propensity for controlling life outcomes. The constructs of academic failurezero tolerance policies, expulsions and suspensions, dropoutin relationship to the No Child Left Behind Act and its successor, Every Student Succeeds Act will be examined for the possible damage it causes to adolescents perception of their future outlook. This study will also consider into its analysis the contributing causes of youth delinquency and the role of locus of control as a factor. Lastly, an in school education programme to increase knowledge of laws affecting adolescents and promote collaborative interaction with law enforcement will be administered and evaluated on its ability to affect students LOC.

Literature Review

Several studies have been conducted using adolescents as the sample group. When LOC is considered with other factors, positive results were found in adolescents possessing an internal LOC. For example, higher GPA in high school students, academic achievement and an overall emotional well-being in adolescent girls. Conversely, an external LOC has been associated with negative outcomes such as aggression in young adults pursing undergraduate studies, depression in adolescents, and suicidal behaviour for at risk adolescents. If LOC tends to remain static during the developmental adolescent years as one study reflects, these findings suggest that an in school programme to address attitudes and beliefs about laws could serve beneficial in raising students LOC and reducing academic failure.

A study by Wallace et al. (2012) indicated that LOC has a significant influence on an adolescents behaviour and deeds. The study aimed at investigating the influence of LOC on an individuals self-esteem and aggression indicated that external LOC is associated with low self-esteem while internal LOC is associated with high self-esteem. The study also indicated that the low-esteem individuals were associated with negative behaviour such as aggression.

In school, educational campaigns not only reduce the number of youths involved in negative influences and behaviours, but also hold accountable marketers, parents and educators. For example, several studies for the intervention of youth smoking found that, "[t]he scientific evidence is substantial and clear: public education campaigns reduce the number of youth who start smoking, increase the number of smokers who quit, and make tobacco industry marketing less effective, saving lives and health care dollars." Another example is the Nancy Reagan's "Say No to Drugs" campaign. In addition to the National Crusade for a Drug Free America signed into law, her efforts produced reductions in youth drug abuse. For example, "cocaine use by high school seniors dropped by one-third, from 6.2 percent in 1986 to 4.3 percent in 1987, the lowest level in a decade....[while] 10 percent of the members of the class of 1978 said they used marijuana daily, but by 1987 the figure was only about 3 percent among high school seniors."

Mark Cohen (1998) also suggests programmes that target high-risk youth designed to prevent high-school dropout, crime, drug abuse, and other forms of delinquency is beneficial. Research shows that such programmes do work. For example, "In 2003, Washington State Legislature directed the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (Institute) to study the benefits and costs of prevention and early intervention programs." It found that "...there is evidence that a successful early childhood education program also produces lower long-term crime rates and this generates benefits to non-participants by lowering the amount of money that taxpayers have to spend on the criminal justice system."

In summary, a review of the literature demonstrates that a lack of intervention/ prevention tools in school with high crime and high poverty communities could be crucial to the perpetuation of the social, educational and economic disadvantages of at risk children, thus fuelling the school to prison pipeline. The literature also demonstrates that a relationship between academic failure and locus of control exists, and the only way to raise ones LOC is with an intervention. Therefore, it is important to undertake an intervention programme aimed at improving the locus of control among adolescents to determine whether it has any significant effect on the adolescents academic performance as well as social behaviour.

Methodology

Research Design

A longitudinal research design would be adopted in this research where data would be collected over a significantly longer period of time, notably more than 35 months. A mono-method approach would also be employed in the proposed study, which means that only quantitative data would be collected. Quantitative involves numerical data and would be collected by the researcher from the selected respondents.

Data Collection and Sampling

A survey approach would be employed in the proposed study. Primary data would be collected using a structured questionnaire that would be administered to the selected respondents. Rather than Rotters Locus of Control, the Nowicki-Strickland scale for assessing ages 13 17 will be used since it is more commonplace for this demographics. This instrument has been previously used and tested for validity and reliability, which means that it would enhance the proposed studys results. Simple random sampling method would be used to select respondents in two public schools in high poverty, high crime communities. Approximately, three hundred male and female students between ages 13 and 18 years will be administered a pre-test and post-test questionnaire while only one school will be selected for the crime prevention campaign. The test will consist of 40 yes or no questions. Teachers and students ages 9 to 10 years will be consulted to ensure that the questions are understandable at their grade level to ensure older student success. The higher the score the more external the orientation. These results indicate a relationship between locus of control and age, with children becoming more internal as they became older. The study participants will be advised that information is being gathered to examine student beliefs by age for determining what adjustments should be made in class instruction. The questions will be read aloud to study participants to ensure that each question is understood.

Data Analysis

Data analysis refers to the process of interpreting and making meaning out of a data. Data would be analysed using correlations as well as the Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) through multiple regression. The OLS model allows multiple variables to be analysed in a single model, which allows the responses to be captured in a multivariate way. The OLS would be employed to moderate the association between the participants locus of control and their school performance or behaviour. Moreover, OLS would also be used to determine the association between the intervention program employed in the control school with the respondents response to the program. Statistical Package for Social Studies (SPSS) would be employed in the analysis of the results.

Limitations of the Study

Existing research suggest a number of contributing factors to adolescent criminality such as physical factors, mental factors, home conditions, school conditions, neighbourhood conditions, and occupational conditions. Specific school conditions like academic failure, zero tolerance policies, exclusionary discipline practices and dropout in particular have been suggested as feeders pushing children along the school to prison pipeline. The crux of this study will limit its focus to school conditions such as academic failure and adolescents own mental factors using the Nowicki-Strickland scale. Additionally, while the NCLB and its successor, ESSA aff...

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