Legal socialization: Understanding the obligation to obey the law

Adam D. Fine, Benjamin van Rooij

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


During the emergence of the legal socialization field, the obligation to obey the law was central in theoretical and empirical approaches. Scholars in the last 50 years often noted that the obligation to obey the law (OOL) is vital for compliance, yet studies rarely empirically examined factors that promote the OOL. This study used data from 1000 adults stratified sampled to be nationally representative of the United States to examine how personal characteristics (i.e., impulsivity and morality), perceptions of the nonlegal social context (i.e., social bonds, teacher legitimacy, and parent legitimacy), and perceptions of the legal system context (i.e., deterrence and police procedural justice, distributive justice, bias, and legitimacy) are associated with the OOL. The results indicated that impulsivity, teacher legitimacy, deterrence, and perceptions of police legitimacy and bias were associated with the OOL. Implications for the next 50 years of legal socialization research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)367-391
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Social Issues
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • deterrence
  • legal socialization
  • obligation to obey the law
  • police legitimacy
  • procedural justice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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