Perceptions of Legal Authorities in a Longitudinal Study of Adjudicated Youth

Natasha Pusch, Kristy Holtfreter, Nicole McKenna, Adam D. Fine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While perceptions of the legitimacy of formal authority have been found to influence offending, little is known about the extent to which such perceptions influence the related outcome of victimization. This study addressed this gap by examining how changes in legitimacy affected victimization both within- and between-individuals. This study used 7 waves of the Pathways to Desistance data (n = 1310; 13.85% female; age range 14–22). Youth who have committed serious offenses were surveyed at 6-month intervals during the transition from adolescence to young adulthood. In the full sample, the effects of legitimacy on both victimization and offending remained largely stable over time within individuals. Sensitivity analyses revealed that more positive perceptions of legitimacy significantly reduce offending for boys and reduce victimization for girls during the developmental period under study. Consistent with prior research, between-individual differences appear to be more important than within-individual change for explaining both offending and victimization. The implications of the results for theory, future research, and early intervention for high-risk youth are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2224-2235
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of youth and adolescence
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • Juvenile offenders
  • Legitimacy
  • Life course criminology
  • Victimization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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