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Legal Socialization and Individual Belief in the Code of the Streets: A Theoretical Integration and Longitudinal Test

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 22 Dated: 2021
Date Published

This study examined whether legal socialization processes are associated with the development of subcultural beliefs.


A popular model of legal socialization contends that interactions with authority figures impact the internalization of pro-social values and beliefs, including authority legitimacy. Simultaneously, subcultural theories, including the code of the street, emphasize that negative contextual and experiential factors promote subcultural beliefs. Using longitudinal data from approximately 1,200 adolescent male offenders, the current study examined whether social experiences and contextual characteristics influence the development of individual beliefs in the code of the street through police legitimacy and legal cynicism. Consistent with theoretical expectations, the effects of deleterious neighborhood characteristics and negative interactions with authority figures were associated with beliefs in the code of the street through diminished police legitimacy and higher levels of cynicism toward the law. These findings provide evidence of the relevance of legal socialization processes for the development of subcultural norms. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2021