Young people's attitudes toward the police in Ireland. A mixed methods study
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The aim of this research was to address outstanding empirical issues in the attitudes to police literature by developing and testing a theoretical model of the factors that influence young people's attitudes toward the police in Ireland. An exploratory sequential mixed methods design was used where qualitative data was were collected in the first study through semi-structured interviews with 20 young people, and quantitative data was collected in the second study through a survey instrument with 226 young people. Data from study one were used to inform the development of a theoretical model of influences on young people's attitudes toward the police and to aid in the construction of a survey instrument to test the model. Results from this study showed that young people's attitudes toward the police are influenced by at least three factors: perceptions of the performance and effectiveness of police, legal socialisation, and cooperative and compliant behaviour on the part of the young person. Each of these factors was tested as an element of the theoretical model in study two using structural equation modelling. Model testing showed a good fit to the data with each factor having similar effects on overall attitudes toward the police. This indicated that young people place some importance on the performance and behaviour of the police in making their assessments of them. However, in addition unique aspects of adolescence, namely legal socialisation and levels of offending at this age, are important considerations and should be included in future measures of young people's attitudes toward the police. Results have practical implications for how the police approach and treat young people in their interactions with them such as giving young people a voice and explaining the reasons behind decisions made by police.