Why children follow rules: Legal socialization and the development of legitimacy

Tom R. Tyler, Rick Trinkner

    Research output: Book/ReportBook

    150 Scopus citations


    Legal socialization is the process by which children and adolescents acquire their law-related values. Such values, in particular legitimacy, underlie the ability and willingness to consent to laws and defer to legal authorities and make legitimacy-based legal systems possible. In their absence people relate to the law as coercion and respond to rewards and punishments. By age eighteen a person’s orientation toward law is largely established, yet recent legal scholarship has largely ignored this early period in favor of studying adults and their relationship to the law. This volume focuses upon socialization and outlines what is known about legal socialization in the family, in schools, and through contacts with the juvenile justice system. Our review of the literature indicates that there are ways to socialize that build legitimacy. These are linked to three issues: how decisions are made, how people are treated, and whether authorities respect the boundaries of their authority. Despite evidence that legitimacy can be socialized, views about the best way to exercise authority are highly contested in America today in families, schools, and within the juvenile justice system. In each case pressures toward coercion are strong. This volume argues for the virtues of a consent-based approach and for utilizing socialization practices that promote such a model.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    PublisherOxford University Press
    Number of pages270
    ISBN (Electronic)9780190644147
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


    • Authority
    • Bullying
    • Classroom justice
    • Coercion
    • Consent
    • Delinquency
    • Family dynamics
    • Juvenile justice system
    • Legal socialization
    • Legitimacy

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Social Sciences(all)


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