Interpersonal trust has recently emerged at the centre of research in social science as an important component of social capital. Earlier, it has been theorized that exposure to media cultivates a suspicious and distrusting ‘mean–world’ outlook on life (cultivation theory). In this article, we aim to bind these separate but obviously interconnected theoretical discussions in a combined empirical analysis, by exploring several potential correlates of social trust. As criminologists, our main interest lies in the possible association between victimization, fear of crime, use of crime news media and trust. We categorize victimization experiences as either persistent or occasional ones. In addition, we add a set of social and structural factors to our analysis. Our cross–sectional survey data consists of a nationally representative sample of 15–16 year–old Finnish adolescents (N = 5142). The results of the multivariate analyses indicate that both victimization and fear of crime are related to lower levels of interpersonal trust. As expected, there is a more robust association between persistent victimization and the level of trust than is the case with occasional victimization. Viewing regularly television crime reality programmes is also robustly related to lower levels of trust, a finding that supports the cultivation theory. Of social interaction variables, social support and supervision by parents and teachers are positively related to trust. Contrary to this, participation in civic life (such as religious and various secular associations) is not related to social trust among Finnish adolescents. This and other results are here discussed applying social capital theory and cultivation theory of media effects.
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