Teenagers’ Perceptions of Legitimacy and Preparedness to Break the Law: The Impact of Migrant and Ethnic Minority Status

  • Diego Farren
  • Mike Hough


Much comparative research has charted the difficult relationships that often develop between the police and people with migrant backgrounds, especially those from minority ethnic groups. However there is very little research into the ways in which these issues play out with young teenagers. This chapter first examines the relationships between migrant status and variables relevant to procedural justice theory (mainly perceptions of procedural fairness and of legitimacy) and self-reported crime, amongst the countries that form the UPYC sub-project of the International Self-Report Delinquency Study: France, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK (disaggregated here into English and Scottish sub-samples) and the US. In four out of the six countries and in the analyses combining all six countries, migration has an effect consistent with most previous studies, namely migrants confer less trust and legitimacy on the police. The second part of the paper examines factors that appear to mediate these effects. Living in conditions of disadvantage and in disorganised neighbourhoods explains almost completely the correlation that we observe between migrant status and perceptions of legitimacy. In the third and final part of the paper we look deeper into the effect of migration on trust, legitimacy and self-reported offending by also incorporating ethnic minority status into the analysis. It is shown that minority status is the main driver of the effects apparently associated with migrant status. These results are interpreted in terms of the histories of integration—or of failed integration—of migrants from visible ethnic minorities into the host population. Implications for public policy and social science are discussed.


Procedural justice theory Group position Legitimacy Migrant backgrounds Ethnic minorities Youth 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diego Farren
    • 1
  • Mike Hough
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Criminology, University of HamburgHamburgGermany
  2. 2.Emeritus Professor, School of Law, Birkbeck, University of LondonLondonUK

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