Dr. Cavanagh's latest article, titled Attitudes toward legal actors among dual system youth, was recently published in the Journal of Social Issues as part of a special issue on Legal Socialization. Most of the legal socialization literature is focused on one context: youth who have been arrested, interacting with police. But there are many other combinations of interactions between youth and legal actors that might influence youths’ attitudes. For example- what about “dual system” youth whose interactions with legal actors come via the child welfare system (brought to the court because they have been maltreated) AND the juvenile justice system (brought to the court because they have been arrested)? We found that dual system youth generally perceived police as less biased, and both police and judges as more legitimate, than their counterparts whose only contact with the justice system has been their own arrest. However, child welfare system contact was not associated with perceptions of situational procedural justice for police or judges, suggesting that child welfare system contact influences youths’ general attitudes toward legal actors, but not their specific interactions with legal actors. Child welfare system cases may be an opportunity for legal actors to foster positive relationships with youth, even if youth re-contact the system in another context (their own arrest). This is important because child welfare system-involved youth are more likely to enter the juvenile justice system than non-child welfare system youth. Overall, child welfare system contact (beyond juvenile justice system contact) has a nuanced-- but overall positive impact-- on youths' attitudes toward legal actors, signaling a need to move beyond conceptualizing legal socialization in only policing contexts to account for a variety of youths’ contact & experiences with the justice system.
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