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Implications of Youths' Perceptions of Police Bias and the Code of the Street for Violent Offending

NCJ Number
Psychology of Violence Volume: 10 Issue: 5 Dated: 2020 Pages: 473-482
Adam Fine; Cortney Simmons; Caitlin Cavanagh; Zachary Rowan; Elizabeth Cauffman
Date Published
10 pages
Since Anderson’s (1999) “code of the street” (CoS) framework posits that exposure to violence (ETV) is linked to violent offending through youth adopting the CoS, the current study quantitatively examined this mediation, as well as the additional mediating role of youths’ perceptions of police.
This study used a racially/ethnically diverse sample of 1,216 first-time juvenile offenders to test whether perceptions of police bias and the CoS mediate the association between ETV and violent offending. The findings indicated that ETV is directly associated with violent offending but also operates indirectly through both perceptions of police bias and the CoS; however, the CoS emerged as a more impactful mediator than perceptions of the police. Overall, these results indicate that ETV is directly associated with violent offending; yet its effect also operates secondarily through the CoS. Collectively, the results reveal the nuanced role that perceptions of the police and the CoS have in explaining violent offending among justice-involved adolescent males. Although affirming Anderson’s theory to some extent, the indirect pathway was less influential than anticipated. Consequently, consistent with literature on the cycle of violence, the results indicate that the mechanisms that explain why violence exposure may lead to violence perpetration appear to be wide-ranging and not uniformly explained by a single characteristic such as perceptions of the police or the CoS. (publisher abstract modified)