A window into racial and socioeconomic status disparities in preschool disciplinary action using developmental methodology

Terri J. Sabol*, Courtenay L. Kessler, Leoandra Onnie Rogers, Amelie Petitclerc, Jamilah Silver, Margaret Briggs-Gowan, Lauren S. Wakschlag

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


There are large differences in expulsions and suspensions on the basis of race starting in preschool and divergent explanations for their cause. The current study explores how developmental methodology can shed light on this vexing issue. We leverage two measures: (1) childcare provider complaints about children's behavior and their recommended disciplinary action (measured by parent report); and (2) observed disruptive behavior measured by a laboratory-based standardized observation tool, the Disruptive Behavior Diagnostic Observation Schedule (DB-DOS), among a large, sociodemographically diverse sample of children (n (Formula presented.) 430; mean age (Formula presented.) 4.79 years). We identified three latent class profiles on the basis of race/socioeconomic status (SES) and found disparities in childcare provider complaints based on profile membership. More specifically, children classified in the Black/Hispanic, poor and Black, nonpoor profiles both had significantly higher childcare provider complaints compared with children in the White/Hispanic, nonpoor profile. By contrast, there were no differences in observed disruptive behavior based on race/SES profiles. Finally, childcare provider complaints in preschool were associated with lower cognitive performance in elementary school, above and beyond observed disruptive behavior in preschool and race/SES profiles. Implications for classroom practice and contributions to the national debate on school disciplinary policies are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-136
Number of pages14
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • behavioral observations
  • early childhood education and care
  • preschool
  • race and socioeconomic status disparities
  • school discipline

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


Dive into the research topics of 'A window into racial and socioeconomic status disparities in preschool disciplinary action using developmental methodology'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this