– The purpose of this paper is to investigate the predictors of punitive attitudes towards young offenders among police officers. This included an examination of variables such as officers’ coping styles, mental health, rank and age. It was predicted that indirect coping styles, mental health difficulties, higher age and higher rank would negatively impact on punitive attitudes towards young offenders. Officers reporting direct coping strategies, low levels of mental health difficulties, lower rank and lower age were expected to have less punitive and more rehabilitative attitudes towards young offenders. Design/methodology/approach – A sample of 83 police officers and community support officers from the UK completed standardised self-report measures. Findings – Indirect coping strategies, high levels of mental health difficulties and high rank were all associated with more punitive attitudes, whilst age had no impact. Research limitations/implications – Results are discussed with regard to their research and real world implications. These include an impact of these findings on the job performance, community safety, approaches to policing, and the well-being of police officers. The importance of mental well-being, direct coping and positive attitudes towards young offenders is indicated in order for police officers to employ more proactive, consistent and fair behaviour with this group, leading to less punitive outcomes for young offenders, as well as improved police-youth relations. Originality/value – The research findings link mental health, coping styles and rank to officers’ attitudes towards young offenders, which had not been fully examined in the literature previously. Results suggest that mental well-being and direct coping styles may serve as a protective factor against the development of punitive attitudes. This highlights the importance of providing support for mental well-being, as well as training in the areas of effective coping styles and issues surrounding young offenders.
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- Mental health
- Young offenders
- Police officers
- Police-youth relations
- Punitive attitudes towards offenders