Prior Family Involvment with the Legal System as a Predictor of Adolescent Attitudes about the Law
Researchers have emphasized that the development of adolescent attitudes about the law and legal actors is influenced by numerous different sources. This study attempts to link an adolescent’s vicarious experience through a family member with prior involvement with the legal system to the adolescent’s attitudes about the law. Legal attitudes were measured by three indices of legal socialization: legitimacy, legal cynicism and obligation to obey the law. While the study could not statistically support the hypothesis that families, and parents in particular, play a significant role in the legal socialization process, the data revealed alternate conclusions. As supported by past literature, minority status predicted negative attitudes about the legitimacy of the law. Finally, regression results approached significance in the finding that younger adolescents (12-15 years-old) were less likely to display legal cynicism than older adolescents (16-18 years-old). These findings are discussed in terms of their implications for policy making and areas for further research.
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