Harmonizing Legal Socialization to Reduce Antisocial Behavior: Results from a Randomized Field Trial of Truanting Young People




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Legal socialization conceptualizes two processes for attaining compliance as either consensus-based or coercive-based. However, in real life, an adolescent’s exposure to police and school authorities is likely to incorporate a blend of both the consensual and coercive systems of compliance. In this article, we examine how harmonizing the way that police and school authorities engage with young people using a consensus-based legal socialization approach might influence a young person’s self-reported antisocial behavior. Drawing data from a randomized field trial of the Ability School Engagement Program in Brisbane, Australia, we find that a young person’s participation in the consensus-based program impacts self-reported antisocial behavior over time indirectly through changes in perceptions of police legitimacy, but not through changes in perceptions of school legitimacy. We conclude that young people are more likely to obey the law when they are exposed to harmonized legal socialization experiences, but it is a young person’s view of police that matters more for compliance with the law than how they view school authorities. © 2019 Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.


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Human behavior--Social aspects, Involuntary treatment, Consensus (Social sciences), Social adjustment in adolescence, Brisbane (Australia)


Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship (grant number FL100100014); Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course (project number CE140100027)


©2019 Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences