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Lesson Learned? Mothers' Legal Knowledge and Juvenile Rearrests

NCJ Number
Law and Human Behavior Volume: 44 Issue: 2 Dated: 2020 Pages: 157-166
Caitlin Cavanagh; Jennifer Paruk; Elizabeth Cauffman
Date Published
10 pages
This study examined how mothers’ personal characteristics, experience with, and attitudes toward the juvenile justice system are associated with their knowledge of the juvenile justice system over time.
The study hypothesized that additional exposure to the system (via sons’ rearrests) would be associated with greater legal knowledge. It predicted that White women, women with higher educational attainment, and women who had been arrested would experience greater gains in legal knowledge over time compared to non-White women, women with lower educational attainment, and women who had not been arrested. The study also predicted that mothers’ attitudes toward the legitimacy of the justice system would not be associated with their change in legal knowledge. A total of 234 mothers of male youth (majority non-White) completed a questionnaire that solicited respondents’ knowledge about the juvenile justice system after their sons’ first arrest (T1) and again 2.5 years later (T2). Mothers’ knowledge of the juvenile justice system did not improve over time, regardless of whether the youth was rearrested. Black mothers displayed less knowledge of the juvenile justice system when their sons were rearrested multiple times. Attitudes toward the justice system were not associated with legal knowledge. The study concluded that these results illustrate the importance of a family educational component to juvenile probation, especially as a vehicle to reduce disproportionate minority contact with the juvenile justice system. (publisher abstract modified)