Does the State Impact Hope? The Impact of Direct and Vicarious Police Contact on the Optimism of Youth in Large Cities

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Journal Article

A growing body of research has begun to examine the implications of police contact for youth. Largely emphasizing serious police contact (arrest, court involvement, and incarceration), this scholarship has generally found that police contact is associated with negative health and educational outcomes. In this study, we build on this work by examining the implications of direct and vicarious police contact for youth attitudes towards the future, both generally and with respect to graduating college. Using multivariate regression models that incorporated a wide range of control variables and data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, we found that youth who experienced police stops without an arrest were less optimistic in general and with respect to college graduation. We found the same for youth who experienced vicarious police contact, but for youth who experienced arrest we only found a significant reduction in optimism with respect to college graduation. Therefore, based on our findings and prior scholarship, we argue that social workers should push policymakers to move beyond the status quo and to make significant changes to how they go about promoting public safety.

Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal