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Legal scholars recognize the centrality of the issue of legal culture (i.e., the “network of values and attitudes relating to law”) (Friedman 1975:34) to the functioning of legal authorities. In particular, they have been concerned about how Americans acquire views about the legitimacy of law and legal authority (Sarat 1977). People do so through a process that includes childhood socialization (Tapp & Levine 1977) and later personal and peer experiences with legal authorities. In particular, the period of adolescence and young adulthood is often viewed as key since young men have their most frequent experiences with legal authorities, as do their peers, during this period (Brunson & Weitzer 2011; Fagan & Tyler 2005). The most frequent legal authority young people encounter is a police officer (Tyler & Huo 2002). The goal of this study is to explore the impact on legitimacy of a particularly salient type of young adult experience with the police—the car or street stop—during a particularly central developmental period—young adulthood.
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