Perceptions of procedural justice and police legitimacy: A life history perspective
Prior research on attitudes towards the police has largely focused on the relationship between demographic factors and perceptions of the police. These studies have produced inconclusive results, and there is no general consensus why and how demographic factors account for individual differences in attitudes towards the police. Life history theory, a “middle-level” evolutionary theory, is one that has largely been neglected in mainstream criminology, but has been used in the current research to explain individual differences in attitudes towards the police. Two studies, both using an online survey, were conducted to explore the extent to which life history strategy explained individual attitudes towards procedural justice, police legitimacy and police socialization after controlling for demographic factors, previous police interaction and prior arrest. Study one, a university sample of 305 participants and study two, a general population sample of 75 Wellington residents both found support for the application of life history theory being used to explain individual differences in attitudes towards the police. Overall, the current research showed that those with a slower life history strategy were more likely hold more positive perceptions of police legitimacy, procedural justice and police socialization regardless of demographic factors, previous police interaction, and prior arrest.