Legal Attitudes and Legitimacy: Extending the Integrated Legal Socialization Model

Ellen S. Cohn, University of New Hampshire - Main Campus
Rick J. Trinkner, University of New Hampshire - Main Campus
Cesar J. Rebellon, University of New Hampshire
Karen T. Van Gundy, University of New Hampshire
Lindsey M. Cole, University of New Hampshire - Main Campus


Legal socialization is the process by which individuals acquire beliefs about rules and rule-violation by internalizing codified, normative rules within society. In the integrated legal socialization model, legal attitudes are mediators between legal/moral reasoning and rule-violating behavior (RVB;Cohn, Bucolo, Rebellon, & Van Gundy, 2010). In the alternative legal socialization model, legitimacy of authority is a predictor of RVB (Piquero, Fagan, Mulvey, Steinberg, & Odgers, 2005). In the current study, we attempted to replicate Cohn et al.'s (2010) integrated model. A path model revealed that legal attitudes (normative status) mediated the relationship between legal reasoning and RVB in partial support of the integrated model. We then expanded the theoretical model by arguing that police and parental legitimacy mediated between moral/legal reasoning and normative status (approval of RVB). We used longitudinal data from middle school and high school students to test our expanded theoretical model. Our final path analysis revealed partial support for our expanded model by demonstrating that legal (but not moral) reasoning was associated with both parental and police legitimacy—which were associated with RVB via the mediating influence of legal reasoning (normative status). We conclude by discussing the policy implications of the expanded legal socialization model as well as our suggestions for future research.