Oliveira, T. R., Jackson, J., de Oliveira, R. T., Piccirillo, D., & Trinkner, R. (2022). Socialization through violence: Exposure to neighborhood and police violence and the developmental trajectories of legitimacy beliefs among adolescents in São Paulo. SocArXiv.
Objectives: Examine the legal socialization of adolescents aged 11 to 14 years in São Paulo, Brazil, a city characterized by a high prevalence of police violence and organized crime. Assess the extent to which exposure to neighborhood and police violence and aggression influence adolescents’ developmental trajectories of beliefs about the legitimacy of the law. Methods: A four-wave longitudinal survey of 2005-born adolescents living in São Paulo was fielded annually between 2016 and 2019 and measured respondents’ perceptions of legal legitimacy, exposures to neighborhood and police violence, and police contact. Adopting a life-course approach, developmental trajectories are estimated using quadratic latent growth curve models. Results: Witnessing police officers assaulting a suspect, being involuntarily stopped by the police, and seeing people selling drugs on the street are all negatively associated with changes in legal legitimacy beliefs. Exposure to gunshots, gun-carrying, or robberies are not associated with changes in legitimacy beliefs. Conclusions: Indicating that adolescents in São Paulo are socialized through violence, exposure to police violence and proximity to organized crime could undermine their development of legal legitimacy beliefs. Exposure to other episodes of neighborhood violence might be too frequent in this context and do not distinguish adolescents’ developmental trajectories of legitimacy beliefs.