An Integrated Model of Legal and Moral Reasoning and Rule-Violating Behavior: The Role of Legal Attitudes


Legal socialization theory predicts that attitudes mediate the relation between legal reasoning and rule-violating behavior [Cohn, E. S., & White, S. O. (1990). Legal Socialization: A Study of Norms and Rules. New York: Springer-Verlag]. Moral development theory predicts that moral reasoning predicts rule-violating behavior directly as well as indirectly [Blasi, A. (1980). Bridging moral cognition and moral action: A critical review of the literature. Psychological Bulletin, 88, 1–45]. We present and test an integrated model of rule-violating behavior drawing on both theories in a longitudinal study of middle school and high school students. Students completed questionnaires three times during the course of 1 year at 6-month intervals. Legal and moral reasoning, legal attitudes, and rule-violating behavior were measured at times one, two, and three respectively. Structural equation models revealed that while moral and legal reasoning were directly and indirectly related to rule-violating behavior among high school students, legal reasoning bore no direct relation to rule-violating behavior among middle school students. The implications for an integrated model of reasoning and rule-violating behavior are discussed.

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Law and Human Behavior



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© American Psychology-Law Society/Division 41 of the American Psychological Association 2009