Statement of purpose Single mothers and their children residing in high-crime communities (HCCs) in the United States are disproportionately exposed to crime, and therefore, the criminal justice system. Specific challenges of single motherhood in HCCs compound the link between juvenile offending and single- female-headed households. Little is known, however, about how single mothers in HCCs perceive and use the police as a resource to help prevent juvenile offending, specifically gun violence. The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experiences of single mothers with police as they related to the arrest of their children for a gun crime. The research questions focused on understanding how single mothers in HCCs currently perceive the police in terms of effectiveness in preventing youth gun violence, if they currently use the police as part of a prevention strategy, and, if so, how they engage with the police. The theoretical base for this study was Husserl’s transcendental phenomenological theory.
Methods/Approach Snowball sampling was used to identify 7 participants for individual interviews. Data from the interviews were coded and categorized for thematic analysis.
Results Eleven themes emerged from the data analysis which highlighted the importance of officer demeanor and trust-building abilities. Findings also suggested that single mothers in HCCs should be regarded by police agencies as critical portals of information regarding youth gun crime.
Significance The implications for social change and injury and violence prevention science include informing law enforcement policy makers of best practices for collaborating with single mothers in HCCs to prevent youth gun violence. Implementing these practices can help reduce the loss of life as a result of youth gun violence and reduce the number of youth arrested for gun crimes annually.
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