Anticipatory injustice among adolescents: age and racial/ethnic differences in perceived unfairness of the justice system


  • This project was an initiative of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice and was supported by grants from the MacArthur Foundation and the Open Society Institute. The authors gratefully acknowledge the members of the Competence Working Group and other contributors to the original study.


The present study examines age differences in anticipatory injustice, or the expectation of unfair or discriminatory treatment in the legal system. 1,393 adolescents and young adults from the community or from detention centers and jails were interviewed regarding demographic and justice system experience, intelligence, expectations about fair treatment, and legal decisions. African Americans and Latinos and those with more system experience expected greater injustice across multiple legal contexts. Anticipatory injustice increased with age among African Americans and those with the most system experience. It also predicted choices about police interrogation, attorney consultation, and plea agreements. Anticipations of injustice during adolescence may affect future interactions with court officials as well as more general constructs of legal socialization. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.