Legal Socialization: Coercion versus Consent in an Era of Mistrust

Rick Trinkner, Tom R. Tyler

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    86 Scopus citations


    Legal socialization is the process whereby people develop their relationship with the law via the acquisition of law-related values, attitudes, and reasoning capacities. Research on legal socialization distinguishes between two different orientations toward the law: coercive and consensual. Coercive orientations are rooted in the use of force and punishment, ultimately leading to an instrumentally focused relationship built on dominance. Consensual orientations are rooted in the acquisition of values encompassing concerns over treatment, decision making, and boundaries. When authorities embody these values, they promote trust and legitimacy and foster a relationship built on shared values and the voluntary acceptance of legal authority. Despite these findings, the appropriateness of a consensual over a coercive approach is heavily contested across legal and nonlegal contexts. However, research consistently demonstrates that socializing supportive values and encouraging favorable attitudes not only motivates compliance with the law but promotes voluntary deference and willing cooperation with legal authorities.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)417-439
    Number of pages23
    JournalAnnual Review of Law and Social Science
    StatePublished - Oct 27 2016


    • Authority
    • Delinquency
    • Human values
    • Juvenile justice
    • Legal socialization
    • Legitimacy

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Law


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