Race, Perceptions of Injustice and Contact With Police: A Multi-Method Approach to Understanding and Deconstructing Delinquency

Carla Shedd, Northwestern University/NCOVR

This researches a multi-method approach to understand the creation, cultivation, and effects of youth perceptions of injustice. Chicago provides an especially interesting locale to evaluate the confluence of racial inequality, economic instability, spatial segregation, and crime. I use a sample of over 25,000 Chicago Public School youth to quantitatively examine the variation in race, class, and perceptions of injustice. However, the findings from these analyses reveal that further exploration must be done to both understand the processes that shape individual's perceptions of injustice; and explore the reciprocal relationship between perceptions of social injustice, behavior/delinquency, and police contact/trouble in school.

This work will address the following questions: Q1: What mechanisms drive the reciprocal relationship between perceptions of injustice, legitimacy accorded to the law, behavior (particularly delinquent behavior), and contact with police/trouble in school? Q2: What impact do youth's interactions with authority figures in multiple contexts (family, school, neighborhood) have on their perceptions of injustice? Q3: What is the substantive content of youth's interactions with police and other authority figures and how are these interactions influenced by prior perceptions of injustice. How are subsequent encounters different?

This research project is important because understanding the impact of multiple social contexts on youth's perceptions of injustice and their behavior can inform sociological theory by providing more in-depth knowledge of the causal relationship between perceptions of injustice, contact with police (and other authority figures), and engagement (or propensity to engage) in delinquency.

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Updated 05/20/2006