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Identity-Linked Perceptions of the Police Among African American Juvenile Offenders: A Developmental Perspective

NCJ Number
Journal of Youth and Adolescence Volume: 40 Issue: 1 Dated: January 2011 Pages: 23-37
Joanna M. Lee; Laurence Steinberg; Alex R. Piquero; George P. Knight
Date Published
January 2011
15 pages
This study examined how processes of ethnic identity development are related to delinquent youths' perceptions of police legitimacy and legal cynicism.
Ethnic identity development can play a role in youths' perceptions and attitudes concerning police, but this process has not been explored in delinquent samples. In this article, the authors examine how youths' perceptions of police legitimacy and levels of legal cynicism are related to processes of ethnic identity development. Participants were 561 Black youth ages 14-18 (12 percent female) who were adjudicated of a felony or serious misdemeanor. Data were taken from semi-annual interviews conducted over 3 years. Increased ethnic identity exploration was related to positive perceptions of police legitimacy and lower legal cynicism. Higher ethnic identity affirmation predicted higher perceived legitimacy over time, but affirmation was not related to legal cynicism after accounting for psychosocial maturity. This study provides evidence that ethnic identity development operates similarly among high risk youth as in non-delinquent samples, and that it is connected to beliefs that can have implications for juvenile offenders' future compliance with the law. (Published Abstract) Figures, tables, and references