Vol. 1 No. 1 (2023): Abolitionist Perspectives in Social Work

Informal social control and the endorsement of police legitimacy: A confirmatory factor analysis

Josh Lown
Northeastern University

Published 06/14/2023


  • abolition,
  • collective efficacy,
  • informal social control,
  • police legitimacy,
  • social work


High-profile shootings by police officers and the mass protests that followed have highlighted the necessity of social work scholars to address new perspectives in community safety. Collective efficacy is a theoretical framework that explores how individual-level interactions impact community-level outcomes. Despite evidence that indicates collective efficacy is an effective mediator to community-level crime and violence, criticisms of the model question the influence of informal social control and whether or not it represents policing in another form. This paper seeks to understand the relationship between informal social control and police legitimacy to understand how residents’ inclination to intervene reflects a replication of the worst aspects of formal institutions of social control. I performed a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) across 15 endogenous variables and two latent exogenous variables to create two pathways that assessed the relationship between informal social control and police legitimacy. Results from the CFA pathways indicate that increased levels of informal social control among neighborhood residents was related to decreased levels of police legitimacy. Implications of these findings for abolitionist social work scholars are discussed along with the study’s limitations and future directions for research.