Police Contact and the Legal Socialization of Urban Teens

5 Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 26 (2019)

Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 14-620

Posted: 22 Mar 2019

See all articles by Amanda Geller

Amanda Geller

NYU Department of Sociology

Jeffrey Fagan

Columbia Law School

Date Written: March 5, 2019

Abstract

Contemporary American policing has routinized involuntary police contacts with young people through frequent, sometimes intrusive investigative stops. Personal experience with the police has the potential to corrode adolescents’ relationships with law and skew law-related behaviors. We use the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to estimate how adolescents’ experiences with the police shape their legal socialization. We find that both personal and vicarious police contact are associated with increased legal cynicism. Associations are present across racial groups and are not explained by teens’ behaviors, school settings, or family backgrounds. Legal cynicism is amplified in teens reporting intrusive contact but diminished among teens reporting experiences characterized by procedural justice. Our findings suggest that aggressive policing risks weakening teens’ deference to law and legal authorities.

Keywords: policing, legal socialization, legal cynicism, adolescents

Suggested Citation

Geller, Amanda and Fagan, Jeffrey, Police Contact and the Legal Socialization of Urban Teens (March 5, 2019). 5 Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 26 (2019); Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 14-620. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3347356

Amanda Geller (Contact Author)

NYU Department of Sociology ( email )

295 Lafayette St.
4th Floor
New York, NY 10012
United States
212-992-8762 (Phone)

Jeffrey Fagan

Columbia Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States
212-854-2624 (Phone)
212-854-7946 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.columbia.edu/fac/Jeffrey_Fagan

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