Psychological Effects of School Uniforms

Written by brittany mccomas
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Psychological Effects of School Uniforms
Some reseach suggests uniforms can promote a better learning atmosphere. (Teenagers reading book image by Monika 3 Steps Ahead from Fotolia.com)

School uniforms have attracted interest across the country. With a growing number of schools adopting uniform policies, schools are trying to promote a positive psychological message of professionalism. Uniform policies in schools can promote less violence, vandalism and fighting in general, as well as better discipline. However, the amount of research into the psychological or long term effects of uniforms is minimal.

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Gangs

Schools have become a place to pursue members for street gangs, often creating battlefields out of playgrounds. It is believed the increasing violence is often over fashion and high priced shoes and clothing. School districts have found if they modify their student dress code the rising violence subsides. Some newer dress codes prohibit solid red or blue shirts and wearing of any hat that does not contain the school's name or mascot. Gangs see clothing as a form of recruitment or initiation not just a way to show their gang colours. The violence alone can have a deep psychological impact on children of any age.

Self-perception

Students who are required to wear uniforms arrive ready to learn. Psychologically, students in uniformed schools get along better and show growth in learning through grade average increase. Principals and teachers of uniformed schools according to David L. Brunsma and Kerry A. Rockquemore in a study on the effects of student uniforms, now claim fewer absences, tardies, truancies and referrals to the office for behaviour problems, fewer suspensions and expulsions, and in some cases, significantly higher achievement. The uniform policy is thought to remove distractions from students and help children avoid ridicule from not wearing the latest fashions, promoting a more positive psychological perception of themselves.

Concerns

Some are against uniform policies because they question the legal, financial, and all around effectiveness of the uniform. Legal concerns stem from the issue of a child's individual rights. Many who are against uniforms argue that mandatory uniform policies are being forced upon predominately poor or ethnic minority families of the student population, who ultimately cannot afford a uniform. The American Civil Liberties Union has voiced concerns about the cost of uniforms for parents without financial means. Concerns, legal or financial, stem from a lack of evidence or studies linking uniforms to promoting positive psychological stimulation and prevention of violence.

Reduction of Crime

The Long Beach Unified School District in California became one of the first urban school districts to adopt a mandatory school uniform policy. Information provided by the district showed school crime to be significantly reduced between school years of 1994-1995 and 1995-1996, during which a mandatory uniform policy was adopted. There is no evidence of a study that shows the uniforms caused the decrease in school crime. However, some view the uniforms as a catalyst that provided a window of opportunity for change. The Long Beach case actually shows that other changes were simultaneously implemented during the time of the mandatory uniform policy. Even with the array of positive things happening within this district between 1994-1996, administrators still attribute the positive outcome to uniforms.

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