An Examination of the Influence of Procedurally Just Strategies on Legal Cynicism Among Urban Youth Experiencing Police Contact

Adolescents experience more police‐initiated contacts resulting from relatively minor infractions than any other group, and often these interactions do not result in notable legal consequences. However, such interactions may have long‐term consequences for adolescent perceptions of the justice system. Using data from the age 15 wave of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, our study examines associations between situational and process features of police contact and legal cynicism in adolescence, accounting for demographic characteristics, self‐reported delinquency, neighborhood context, and stop outcome. Relative to youth who experienced only vicarious police contact, youth who had direct or both direct and vicarious police contact reported higher levels of legal cynicism. Youth perceptions of procedural justice were associated with lower legal cynicism. Situational features of police contact such as harsh language and frisking were related to higher legal cynicism. Directions for future research, including the need for longitudinal research on this topic, are discussed.