Trauma Exposure and Trauma Symptoms as Predictors of Police Perceptions in Latinx Youths

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Psychology of Violence






American Psychological Association

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Objective: The Latinx immigrant youth population composes nearly a quarter of all children in the U.S. and are a high-risk group for police encounters. Based on perceptions of Latinxs as criminals, increased enforcement actions against Latinxs in the U.S., and failures of policing and police brutality in immigrants’ home countries, we expected that immigrants who reported increased trauma exposure and symptoms would have more negative perceptions of police. Method: This study utilized data from 107 recently immigrated Latinx youth to examine how trauma exposure (Child Trauma Screen) and symptoms (Child PTSD Symptoms Scale) related to perceptions of police (Criminal Sentiments Scale–Modified). Results: Consistent with the proposed hypotheses, trauma symptoms evidenced a significant main effect in relation to perceptions of police, B = .115, t = 2.35; p = .021, such that greater trauma symptoms were associated with more negative perceptions of law enforcement. Though trauma exposure did not evidence a significant main effect in relation to perceptions of police, B = .254, t = 1.46; p = .146, moderation analyses indicated that trauma exposure was associated with more negative perceptions of police, B = −.019, t = −2.08; p = .040. However, this interaction effect indicated that when both trauma symptoms and trauma exposure were high, less negative perceptions of police were observed. Conclusion: The present study provides novel data on police perceptions in young Latinx immigrants. Findings highlight the need for improved community relations and culturally responsive strategies between law enforcement and communities of color.

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