Studying Path from School to Prison: Theoretical Framework

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The present study is guided by two influential developmental theories that explain the way people learn and adopt behavioral patterns they use in their life. Bandura’s social learning theory and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are appropriate frameworks to explore the path from school to prison many students of color have to undertake. Jones, Ferguson, Ramirez, and Owens (2018) noted that Maslow’s paradigm could frame the analysis of people’s intrapersonal and interpersonal experiences, the systems people have to interact with, unmet needs that hinder students’ educational progress. Abraham Maslow identified five major levels of needs, including physiological, safety, belongingness, esteem, and self-actualization needs.

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When examining Black students’ lived experiences, it is important to pay attention to all these needs including such basic ones as physiological and safety. Jimerson-Johnson, Canady, and Leuleseged (2017) claimed that the highest level in the hierarchy of needs is unattainable for students of color due to the created capitalistic and racist system within the American educational agenda. Students may face violence, negligence, hostility, which hinder their development and their ability to integrate successfully into the community. These aspects should be considered when analyzing the participants’ experiences and the factors that could affect their behavior and the choices they made.

In addition to the exploration of Black students’ attainment of their needs, it is critical to investigate the influence of the social environment. Bandura’s social learning framework offers insights into this process and identifies major aspects of this impact. Albert Bandura introduced the concept of observational learning and its effects on people (Bryant and Wilson, 2020). According to this theory, children learn from observing the behavior of the people who are around them, and they develop specific behavioral patterns based on positive, as well as negative, reinforcement (Bryant and Wilson, 2020).

Punishment and rewards facilitate the learning process as children seek approval and try to avoid behaviors that lead or can potentially result in punishment. Role models shape young people’s behaviors and may define the way they develop. Individuals may have different role models throughout diverse stages of their development.

Students of color are exposed to different behavioral models they encounter at home, in school, among their peers, and in other social contexts. Weaver and Swank (2020) stress that teachers are influential figures, and they should teach their students’ prosocial behaviors implicitly through respectful attitude. However, Black students are often deprived of such attitudes and face alienation and negligence, which results in their deviant behavior (Delale-O’Connor, Alvarez, Murray, & Milner, IV, 2017).

They have to learn from punishment rather than positive reinforcement, so their route from school to prison becomes possible. The exploration of the participants’ experiences in terms of their exposure to punishment and recognition will shed light on the factors leading to the school-to-prison pipeline. It is necessary to pay specific attention to students’ accounts regarding role models they had in school or other settings. This information will also highlight mechanisms of the transition of people of color from school to prison.

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To sum up, this study will be framed with such theoretical paradigms as Bandura’s social learning theory and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. These frameworks are instrumental in explaining the exact factors affecting students of color and leading to their low academic achievement and incarceration that is common in this cohort. The theories contextualize people’s interpersonal and intrapersonal interactions that form their personalities and behavioral patterns.


Bryant, D., & Wilson, A. (2020). Factors potentially influencing discipline referral and suspensions at an affiliated charter high school. Journal of Educational Research & Practice, 10(1), 119–128. Web.

Delale-O’Connor, L. A., Alvarez, A. J., Murray, I. E., & Milner, IV, H. R. (2017). Self-efficacy beliefs, classroom management, and the cradle-to-prison pipeline. Theory into Practice, 56(3), 178-186. Web.

Jimerson-Johnson, C., Canady, L., & Leuleseged, E. (2017). Racism and capitalistic constructs. In P. Reid-Merritt (Ed.), Race in America: How a pseudoscientific concept shaped human interaction (pp. 243-264). Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.

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Jones, K. R., Ferguson, A., Ramirez, C., & Owens, M. (2018). Seen but not heard: Personal narratives of systemic failure within the school-to-prison pipeline. Taboo: The Journal of Culture & Education, 17(4), 49–68. Web.

Weaver, J. L., & Swank, J. M. (2020). A case study of the implementation of restorative justice in a middle school. RMLE Online, 43(4), 1-9. Web.

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PsychologyWriting. (2022, August 5). Studying Path from School to Prison: Theoretical Framework. Retrieved from


PsychologyWriting. (2022, August 5). Studying Path from School to Prison: Theoretical Framework.

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"Studying Path from School to Prison: Theoretical Framework." PsychologyWriting, 5 Aug. 2022,


PsychologyWriting. (2022) 'Studying Path from School to Prison: Theoretical Framework'. 5 August.


PsychologyWriting. 2022. "Studying Path from School to Prison: Theoretical Framework." August 5, 2022.

1. PsychologyWriting. "Studying Path from School to Prison: Theoretical Framework." August 5, 2022.


PsychologyWriting. "Studying Path from School to Prison: Theoretical Framework." August 5, 2022.