Date of Award

Spring 2023

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Ellen S Cohn

Second Advisor

Cesar J Rebellon

Third Advisor

Michelle D Leichtman


Legal socialization research is the backbone of many educational, forensic, and intervention programs aiming to prevent criminal behavior, yet researchers in this field and other disciplines define rule-breaking exclusively as harmful/antisocial behavior. This classification fails to explain rule-breaking motivated by prosocial intentions (e.g., clashing with police over racial injustice, hiding Jewish families during Nazi Germany, and violating racial segregation laws during the civil rights movement). The studies described here intend to adapt two legal socialization models so they clearly distinguish prosocial rule-breaking from antisocial rule-breaking. Across three studies, I present findings that validate the distinction between morality and legality, identify external social and internal moral factors that motivate prosocial rule-breaking as opposed to antisocial rule-breaking, and determine the developmental differences between prosocial and antisocial rule-breaking using the two predominant legal socialization models. In Study 1, I developed a novel scale measuring the two factors of moral and legal alignment. In Study 2, I also further validate the moral and legal alignment scale and demonstrate the predictive ability of its two factors when expanding the integrated cognitive model of legal socialization. Study 2 employs a cross-sectional within-subjects experimental design to determine differences between prosocial and antisocial rule-breaking in how they are predicted by the integrated model and the procedural justice model of legal socialization. In Study 3, I examine the development of prosocial rule-breaking using both the integrated cognitive model and procedural justice model in a longitudinal design across three waves. This research helps dispel the myth that all rule-breakers are antisocial, giving researchers, forensic investigators, judges, and juries greater clarity in understanding the moral motivations behind the rule-breaking perennially at the forefront of positive social change.