Legal cynicism, legitimacy, and criminal offending: The nonconfounding effect of low self-control

Michael Reisig, Scott E. Wolfe, Kristy Reisig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

141 Scopus citations


Prior research suggests that legal orientations (or domains of legal socialization), such as legitimacy and legal cynicism, influence compliance with the law (or criminal offending). The aim of this study was to assess a potential threat to the internal validity of these findings. Specifically, the authors test whether one potential confounder, low self-control, attenuates the observed effects of legal orientations on self-reported criminal offending. Using cross-sectional survey data from 626 adult participants, the results of regression models show that criminal offending is significantly shaped by both legal cynicism and legitimacy, even after taking into account individual variations in self-control. In short, the findings demonstrate that legitimacy and legal cynicism exert direct independent effects on law-violating behavior and that these relationships are not confounded by low self-control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1265-1279
Number of pages15
JournalCriminal Justice and Behavior
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2011


  • crime
  • legal cynicism
  • legal socialization
  • legitimacy
  • self-control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Psychology(all)
  • Law


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