Fair teachers, fair police? Assessing the pathways between perceptions of teacher and police authority in childhood and adolescence

Amy Nivette*, Ingrid Obsuth, Denis Ribeaud, Manuel Eisner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Existing research has shown that the quality of the relationship between teacher and child is associated with more positive perceptions of school authorities. There has been relatively less attention to the processes that connect attitudes towards different sources of authority, such as between teachers and police. The current study uses a counterfactual approach to estimate the direct and indirect effects of teacher–child relationships on children’s later perceptions of police legitimacy. Using data from a longitudinal study of youth in Zurich, Switzerland, this study applies non-bipartite propensity score matching to identify matched pairs (n = 232 pairs, 55% male) of children with better versus worse relationships with their teacher at age 11 following a teacher change. Matched pairs were then compared on potential mediators (moral norms about deviant behavior and low self-control) at age 13 and perceptions of police legitimacy at age 15. The results demonstrate the importance of the quality of the relationships between students and teachers in shaping young people’s interpersonal characteristics as well as perceptions of the world around them. Namely, if young people feel that they are being treated fairly by their teachers, they are more likely to distinguish behaviors that are right or wrong (moral norms) and control their actions (self-control). Moreover, as a result they are also more likely to perceive authorities such as police as legitimate agents that facilitate societal order.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-207
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Youth and Adolescence
Issue number2
Early online date16 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • legal socialization
  • low self-control
  • police legitimacy
  • propensity score matching
  • teacher–child relationships


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