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Br J Criminol. 2014 Jul;54(4):568-591.

Legal Cynicism and Parental Appraisals of Adolescent Violence.

Abstract

Research suggests that legal cynicism-a cultural frame in which the law is viewed as illegitimate and ineffective-encourages violence to maintain personal safety when legal recourse is unreliable. But no study has tested the impact of legal cynicism on appraisals of violence. Drawing from symbolic interaction theory and cultural sociology, we tested whether neighbourhood legal cynicism alters the extent to which parents appraise their children's violence as indicative of aggressive or impulsive temperaments using data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods. We find that legal cynicism attenuates the positive association between adolescent violence and parental assessments of aggression and impulsivity. Our study advances the understanding of micro-level processes through which prevailing cultural frames in the neighbourhood shape violence appraisals.

KEYWORDS:

adolescent delinquency; cultural frames; legal cynicism; neighbourhood effects

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