Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Criminal Justice


Amy Adamczyk

Committee Members

Joshua Freilich

Jeremy Porter

Subject Categories

Criminology | Race and Ethnicity | Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance


Labeling theory, disproportionate minority contact, racial threat, punitive interventions, gender, secondary deviance


The overrepresentation of minority youth in the juvenile justice system has been well documented. More research has, however, been needed on levels of discrimination, particularly on potential biases in the earliest point of contact, such as police decisions to stop and arrest young people. Further, few studies have examined individual and neighborhood characteristics simultaneously, which has limited the understanding of citizens’ experiences with the police. Focusing on potential biases in the juvenile justice system is essential as recent studies indicate that most types of interventions have different negative consequences for the lives of young people, such as increasing the probability of crime in adulthood.

The current study addresses some of the limitations of previous research and uses data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) to test several hypotheses related to the probability of having been stopped or arrested by the police in youth, and the long-term impact of punitive interventions by the police and school authorities.

Results generated from the multilevel analyses fail to show that racial and ethnic minorities are more likely than White youth to be stopped by the police. Independent of differences in behavior, Black youth are, however, more likely to be arrested than White adolescents. There is no significant difference between the probability of police stops or arrest for Hispanic and White youth. The probability of arrest also increases with increased concentrated disadvantage (concentrated poverty, a high proportion of single-parent households, and a high proportion of residents without a high school diploma).

Interventions in adolescence (being arrested or suspended/expelled from high school) do not decrease subsequent crime but instead lead to more crime in adulthood. The findings indicate that this is partly because these interventions have decrease adult SES, particularly interventions by school authorities. The current study also indicates that Black youth and young women are more vulnerable to the negative consequences of interventions than other groups.