Legal Socialization: A Study of Norms and Rules


Legal Socialization - A Study of Norms and Rules examines the varying responses, negative and positive, to rule enforcement, as well as the genesis of these responses and the conditions under which they occur. The book presents the results of a longitudinal, multi-methodological study of the dynamic interaction between norms of behavior and rule enforcement in a natural setting, specifically, a university residential community. This approach allowed for the testing of competing hypotheses drawn from social ...

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Legal Socialization - A Study of Norms and Rules examines the varying responses, negative and positive, to rule enforcement, as well as the genesis of these responses and the conditions under which they occur. The book presents the results of a longitudinal, multi-methodological study of the dynamic interaction between norms of behavior and rule enforcement in a natural setting, specifically, a university residential community. This approach allowed for the testing of competing hypotheses drawn from social learning and cognitive developmental theory to determine which was more substantively predictive of legal socialization. The first major section discusses the vital issues involved in understanding legal socialization; the two major legal socialization theories; and the research design of the study carried out by the authors. The second part concentrates on empirically testing the predictions of legal development theory versus social learning theory. The final section explores the interaction between reasoning and rule-enforcing conditions and its importance for understanding legal socialization.

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Editorial Reviews

Tom R. Tyler
The authors of this manuscript begin by pointing out the pervasiveness of legal rules within organized groups. This centrality of rules raises the key question of how people respond to such efforts to restrict and regulate their behavior. Why do people sometimes comply with rules, often voluntarily, and on other occasions resist the directives of authorities? The authors' book, LEGAL SOCIALIZATION, represents an ambitious attempt to demonstrate the importance of legal development theory to the understanding of the psychology of compliance with legal rules. Their introductory chapters articulate clearly what a legal development theory model of compliance hypothesizes and contrast the predictions of this model to those of its plausible rival model--social learning theory. The legal development theory framework utilized by the authors flows from the cognitive developmental perspective of Piaget, amplified by Kohlberg, and applied to legal reasoning by Tapp and Levine. This perspective argues that people actively reason about legal rules and that the structure of their thinking shapes their behavior toward the law. The authors contrast this perspective to a social learning model of compliance which emphasizes the role of environmental contingencies in shaping law related behavior. As the authors note, the key distinction between these models is in the relative weight they assign to factors within the person and within the environment in shaping orientations toward the law. The heart of this book is the description of an ambitious effort to test the value of a legal development theory model of compliance within the context of compliance by residence students with dormitory rules and regulations. The authors use a longitudinal approach, interviewing four group of students during the fall and spring of an academic year. Two of the groups live within artificially created dorm environments -- one within which dormitory rules are externally imposed and enforced by dorm officials and the other in which dorm rules are shaped and enforced by students elected by their peers. A third group represents two control groups of dorm residents, interviewed in dorm settings not constructed by the investigators. Finally, a separate random sample of the student population is interviewed. The authors' research approach is well conceived and carefully executed. It takes advantage of both naturally-occurring and experimentally created opportunities for legal socialization and directly addresses the theoretical issues raised by the authors. Past studies of legal reasoning have found little relationship between abstract legal reasoning and behavior toward legal rules. The authors hypothesize that this failure to find legal development effects occurs because such effects are manifested indirectly. They test, and find support for, a model in which legal reasoning shapes attitudes about the appropriateness of rule-breaking normative status and about the appropriateness of punishing those who break the rules enforcement status. They predict that these attitudes will, in turn, Page 29 follows influence actual rule-following behavior. Hence, their findings support legal development theory predictions by showing that the level of individual legal reasoning indirectly influences behavior in relationship to laws. The findings of this study also support a second key suggestion of legal development theory. Since legal development theory links the level of legal reasoning to having opportunities to reason about legal rules, particularly situations in which a person takes the role of others, it predicts that the peer-oriented dorm culture created by the authors should stimulate the development of legal reasoning. The authors find indirect evidence suggesting that the peer culture has this predicted effect. For example, they find that students in a peer culture are more likely to approve of the enforcement of legal rules restricting behaviors of which they disapprove. While the authors point to several types of indirect evidence supporting the value of a peer-oriented culture, it is troubling that they find no evidence that levels of legal reasoning actually increase within that culture p. 72. In fact, levels of legal reasoning remain constant within all of the authors' conditions. Nonetheless, the authors point to several types of indirect evidence suggesting that the peer culture differentially shaped thinking about legal rules. Overall, the authors findings provide strong support for the importance of a legal development theory perspective on compliance. It is clear from the results they report that the manner in which people reason about law has an important influence on their behavior. However, the authors' findings do not lead to the discrediting of a social learning perspective. Their findings also suggest that the situational factors emphasized by social learning theories are an important influence on attitudes and behavior toward the law. Social learning influence is manifested both directly p.84-85 and interactively. Recognizing that both influences occur, the authors propose the development of an interactive model which incorporates the influence of both internal reasoning about the law and external pressures on compliance behavior. Of particular interest is their suggestion that conflict in the social environment stimulates thinking about rules, i.e. that reasoning is reactive, not generative. Hence, their results suggest that environmental factors influence the degree to which people think about their reasons for having and obeying legal rules. This book is an important demonstration of the importance of the legal development perspective to any complete understanding of people's law-related behavior. It demonstrates that people's reasoning about the law has important implications for their law-related behavior. Such a demonstration is especially important because the authors contrast their model to a social learning model, which emphasizes the importance of the contingencies within the social environment. The suggestion that the regulation of behavior occurs primarily through control over rewards and punishments within the environment has become central to recent discussions of law-abidingness within the law and social science community. The results reported in this monograph represent a welcome reassertion of the importance of exploring people's reasoning about the principles underlying their obedience and disobedience with legal rules.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781461279891
  • Publisher: Springer New York
  • Publication date: 7/31/2012
  • Edition description: Softcover reprint of the original 1st ed. 1990
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Table of Contents

I: Legal Socialization Theory.- 1 Studying Legal Socialization.- 2 Comparing Theories of Legal Socialization.- 3 Scope of the Study.- II: Testing Competing Hypotheses.- 4 Changes in Legal Socialization over Time.- 5 Testing Competing Hypotheses.- 6 Effects of the Interaction.- III: Exploring the Interaction.- 7 Legal Reasoning and Behaviors: The Mediating Model.- 8 Offender Status.- 9 A Comparison of Two Rule-Enforcing Experiences.- Conclusion.- Epilogue.- References.- Author List.

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