What Predicts Pre-adolescent Compliance with Family Rules? A Longitudinal Analysis of Parental Discipline, Procedural Justice, and Legitimacy Evaluations

  • Kendra J. ThomasEmail author
  • Herbert Rodrigues
  • Renan T. de Oliveira
  • Anthony A. Mangino
Empirical Research


During adolescence, individuals make judgements on the legitimacy of authorities to make and enforce rules and they differentiate between various types of rules. This study tracked a socially and racially diverse sample (47% White) of 800 Brazilians for three years, ages 11–13 (50% female), allowing for variation between issues and individuals. The strongest predictors of compliance were adolescents’ beliefs that parents were legitimate authorities. Other significant predictors were authorities’ procedural justice and disciplinary practices. Legitimacy attributions partially mediated the relationship between procedural justice and compliance. Compliance and legitimacy varied across issues. Across time, parenting variables diminished in predictive strength while legitimacy attributions increased. Procedural justice practices may partially establish parental legitimacy, while disciplinary practices are less effective and perhaps counter-productive.


Compliance Legitimacy Procedural justice Discipline Pre-adolescence 



Funding Data of São Paulo Legal Socialization Study (SPLSS) was funded by São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), from the 2013–2021 Research, Innovation and Dissemination Centers (RIDCs) grant (no. 2013/07923-7).

Authors’ Contributions

K.J.T. conceived of the research question, conducted the literature review, aided in the statistical analysis, compiled all efforts together, and wrote most of the manuscript; H.R. and R.O. conceived of the study design, coordination, and data collection; H.R. aided in the literature review and helped edit the manuscript; R.O. wrote the majority of the methods section; A.A.M. conducted the statistical analysis and drafted the results section. All authors provided feedback on the manuscript, read and approved the final manuscript.

Data Sharing and Declaration

The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are not publicly available but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Brazilian National Health Council (CNS) 466/2012 resolution, following the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The board of the local research institute, the School of Arts, Sciences and Humanities (CEP-EACH) from the University of São Paulo (USP), approved this study in September 24th 2015.

Informed Consent

Active written informed consent was obtained from all participants’ parents included in the study prior to data collection. Child assent was obtained from all participants after parental consent.


  1. Assadi, S. M., Smetana, J., Shahmansouri, N., & Mohammadi, M. (2011). Beliefs about parental authority, parenting styles, and parent-adolescent conflict among Iranian mothers of middle adolescents. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 35(5), 424–431. Scholar
  2. Bates, D., Maechler, M., Bolker, B., & Walker, S. (2015). Fitting linear mixed-effects models using lme4. Journal of Statistical Software, 67(1), 1–48. Scholar
  3. Baumrind, D. (1991). Effective parenting during the early adolescent transition. In P. A. Cowan & E. M. Hetherington (Eds), Family transitions, vol. 2 (pp. 111–1163). Hillsdale: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  4. Cohn, E. S., Bucolo, D. O., Rebellon, C. J., & Van Gundy, K. (2010). An integrated model of legal and moral reasoning and rule-violating behavior: the role of legal attitudes. Law and Human Behavior, 34(4), 295–309. Scholar
  5. Cohn, E. S., Trinkner, R. J., Rebellon, C. J., Van Gundy, K. T., & Cole, L. M. (2012). Legal attitudes and legitimacy: extending the integrated legal socialization model. Victims & Offenders, 7(4), 385–406. Scholar
  6. Cumsille, P., Flaherty, B. P., Darling, N., & Martínez, M. L. (2006). Chilean adolescents’ beliefs about the legitimacy of parental authority: individual and age-related differences. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 30(2), 97–106. Scholar
  7. Cumsille, P., Darling, N., Flaherty, B., & Martínez, M. L. (2009). Heterogeneity and change in the patterning of adolescents’ perceptions of the legitimacy of parental authority: a latent transitions model. Child Development, 80(2), 418–432. Scholar
  8. Darling, N., & Steinberg, L. (1993). Parenting style as context: an integrative model. Psychological Bulletin, 113(3), 487. Scholar
  9. Darling, N., Cumsille, P., & Peña-Alampay, L. (2005). Rules, legitimacy of parental authority, and obligation to obey in Chile, the Philippines, and the United States. In J. Smetana (Ed.), Changing boundaries of parental authority during adolescence (pp. 47–60). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  10. Darling, N., Cumsille, P., & Martínez, M. L. (2007). Adolescents’ as active agents in the socialization process: legitimacy of parental authority and obligation to obey as predictors of obedience. Journal of Adolescence, 30, 297–311. Scholar
  11. Darling, N., Cumsille, P., & Martínez, M. L. (2008). Individual differences in adolescents’ beliefs about the legitimacy of parental authority and their own obligation to obey: a longitudinal investigation. Child Development, 79(4), 1103–1118. Scholar
  12. Fagan, J., & Tyler, T. (2005). Legal socialization of children and adolescents. Social Justice Research, 18(3), 217–242. Scholar
  13. Feldman, S. S., & Rosenthal, D. A. (1991). Age expectations of behavioural autonomy in Hong Kong, Australian and American youth: the influence of family variables and adolescents’ values. International Journal of Psychology, 26(1), 1–23. Scholar
  14. Feldman, S. S., & Quatman, T. (1988). Factors influencing age expectations for adolescent autonomy: a study of early adolescents and parents. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 8(4), 325–343. Scholar
  15. Fletcher, A. C., Walls, J. K., Cook, E. C., Madison, K. J., & Bridges, T. H. (2008). Parenting styles as a moderator of associations between maternal disciplinary strategies and child well-being. Journal of Family Issues, 29(12), 1724–1744. Scholar
  16. Gershoff, E. T. (2002). Corporal punishment by parents and associated child behaviors and experiences: a meta-analytic and theoretical review. Psychological Bulletin, 128(4), 539–579. Scholar
  17. Gershoff, E. T., Grogan-Kaylor, A., Lansford, J. E., Change, L., Zelli, A., Deater-Deckard, K., & Dodge, K. A. (2010). Parent discipline practices in an international sample: associations with child behaviors and moderation by perceived normativeness. Child Development, 18(2), 487–502. Scholar
  18. Gingo, M., Roded, A. D., & Turiel, E. (2017). Authority, autonomy, and deception: evaluating the legitimacy of parental authority and adolescent deceit. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 27(4), 862–877. Scholar
  19. Gomes, A. F. C., & Azevedo, A. V. S. (2014). Punição corporal e problemas comportamentais em adolescentes [Corporal punishment and behavioral problems in adolescents]. Contextos Clínicos, 7(1), 76–85. Scholar
  20. Grusec, J. E., & Goodnow, J. J. (1994). Impact of parental discipline methods on the child’s internalization of values: a reconceptualization of current points of view. Developmental Psychology, 30(1), 4–19. Scholar
  21. Koehn, A. J., & Kerns, K. A. (2018). Parent-child attachment: meta-analysis of associations with parenting behaviors in middle childhood and adolescence. Attachment and Human Development, 20(4), 378–405. Scholar
  22. Kuczynski, L., & Hildebrandt, N. (1997). Models of conformity and resistance in socialization theory. In J. E. Grusec, & L. Kuczynski. (Eds), Parenting and the internalization of values: a handbook of contemporary theory (pp. 227–256). New York, NY: Wiley.Google Scholar
  23. Kuhn, E. S., & Laird, R. D. (2011). Individual differences in early adolescents’ beliefs in the legitimacy of parental authority. Developmental Psychology, 47(5), 1353–1365. Scholar
  24. Kuhn, E. S., Phan, J. M., & Laird, R. D. (2014). Compliance with parents’ rules: between-person and within-person predictions. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 43, 245–256. Scholar
  25. LaFleur, L. K., Zhao, Y., Zeringue, M. M., & Laird, R. D. (2016). Warmth and legitimacy beliefs contextualize adolescents’ negative reactions to parental monitoring. Journal of Adolescence, 51, 58–67. Scholar
  26. Locke, L. M., & Prinz, R. J. (2002). Measurement of parental discipline and nurturance. Clinical Psychology Review, 22, 895–925. Scholar
  27. Martínez, I., García, J. F., & Yubero, S. (2007). Parenting styles and adolescents’ self-esteem in Brazil. Psychological Reports, 100(3), 731–745. Scholar
  28. Martínez, M. L., Perez, C., & Cumsille, P. (2014). Chilean adolescents’ and parents’ views on autonomy development. Youth & Society, 46(2), 176–200. Scholar
  29. McKee, L., Roland, E., Coffelt, N., Olson, A. L., Forehand, R., Massari, C., & Zens, M. S. (2007). Harsh discipline and child problem behaviors: the roles of positive parenting and gender. Journal of Family Violence, 22, 187–196. Scholar
  30. Mellado, C., Cumsille, P., & Martínez, M. L. (2018). Interactive associations of parental support, demands, and psychological control, over adolescents’ beliefs about the legitimacy of parental authority. Journal of Adolescence, 64, 81–88. Scholar
  31. Milnitsky-Sapiro, C., Turiel, E., & Nucci, L. (2006). Brazilian adolescents’ conceptions of autonomy and parental authority. Cognitive Development, 21, 317–331. Scholar
  32. Nucci, L. (2001). Education in the moral domain. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Nucci, L., Camino, C., & Sapiro, C. M. (1996). Social class effects on northeaster Brazilian children’s conceptions of areas of personal choice and social regulation. Child Development, 67(3), 1223–1242. Scholar
  34. Patrick, R. B., & Gibbs, J. C. (2012). Inductive discipline, parental expression of disappointed expectations, and moral identity in adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41, 973–987. Scholar
  35. Piquero, A. R., Fagan, J., Mulvey, E. P., Steinberg, L., & Odgers, C. (2005). Developmental trajectories of legal socialization among serious adolescent offenders. Journal of Criminal Law Criminology, 96(1), 267–298.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. R Core Team. (2019). R: a language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing.
  37. Raudenbush, S. W., & Bryk, A. S. (2002). Hierarchical linear models: applications and data analysis methods, 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  38. Rodrigues, H., & Gomes, A. M. (2019). Formação de atitudes em relação às leis: Um estudo sobre socialização legal de adolescentes em São Paulo [Attitude formation towards laws: a study on legal socialization of adolescents in São Paulo]. Revista Santa Rita, 14(28), 41–48.Google Scholar
  39. Rosseel, Y. (2012). Lavaan: an R package for structural equation modeling and more. Version 0.5–12 (BETA). Journal of Statistical Software, 48(2), 1–36. Scholar
  40. Sears, R. R., Maccoby, E. E., & Levin, H. (1957). Patterns of child rearing. Oxford: Row, Peterson and Co.Google Scholar
  41. Sheehan, M. J., & Watson, M. W. (2008). Reciprocal influences between maternal discipline techniques and aggression in children and adolescents. Aggressive Behavior, 34(3), 245–255. Scholar
  42. Smetana, J. G. (1983). Social-cognitive development: domain distinctions and coordinations. Developmental Review, 3(2), 131–147. Scholar
  43. Smetana, J. G. (2000). Middle-class African American adolescents’ and parents’ conceptions of parental authority and parenting practices: a longitudinal investigation. Child Development, 71, 1672–1686. Scholar
  44. Smetana, J. G., Campione-Barr, N., & Daddis, C. (2004). Longitudinal development of family decision making: defining healthy behavioral autonomy for middle-class African American adolescents. Child Development, 75(5), 1418–1434. Scholar
  45. Smetana, J. G., Villalobos, M., Tasopoulos-Chan, M., Gettman, D. C., & Campione-Barr, N. (2009). Early and middle adolescents’ disclosure to parents about activities in different domains. Journal of Adolescence, 32, 693–713. Scholar
  46. Smetana, J. G. (2011). Adolescents, families and social development: How teens construct their worlds. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  47. Smetana, J. G., Ilkhlas, Z., & Wray-Lake, L. (2016). Beliefs about parental authority legitimacy among refugee youth in Jordan: between- and within-person variations. Developmental Psychology, 52(3), 484–495. Scholar
  48. Teixeira, M. A. P., Oliveira, A. M., & Wottrich, S. H. (2006). Escalas de práticas parentais (EPP): Avaliando dimensões de práticas parentais em relação a adolescentes [Parental practices scales (PPS): evaluating dimensions of parental practices towards adolescents]. Psicologia: Reflexão e Críica, 19(3), 433–441. Scholar
  49. Thomas, K., Rodrigues, H., Mizutani, A. M., Oliveira, R. T., Piccirillo, D., & Brito, R. C. (2018). Parental legitimacy, procedural justice and adolescent compliance with parental rules among Brazilian preadolescents. International Journal of Child, Youth, and Family Studies, 9(3), 21–46. Scholar
  50. Trinkner, R., Cohn, E. S., Rebellon, C., & Van Gundy, K. (2012). Don’t trust anyone over 30: parental legitimacy as a mediator between parenting style and changes in delinquent behavior over time. Journal of Adolescence, 35(1), 119–132. Scholar
  51. Trinkner, R., & Cohn, E. S. (2014). Putting the “social” back in legal socialization: procedural justice, legitimacy, and cynicism in legal and nonlegal authorities. Law & Human Behavior, 38(6), 602–617. Scholar
  52. Trinkner, R., Rodrigues, H., Veiga, D. P. B., Gifford, F., & Gomes, A. M. (2019). Legal socialisation in Brazil: examining the generalizability of the procedural justice model. International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice.
  53. Tyler, T. (1988). What is procedural justice? Criteria used by citizens to assess the fairness of legal procedures. Law & Society Review, 22(1), 103–136. Scholar
  54. Tyler, T., Fagan, J., & Geller, A. (2014). Street stops and police legitimacy: teachable moments in young urban men’s legal socialization. Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, 11(4), 751–785. Scholar
  55. Tyler, T., & Trinkner, R. (2017). Why children follow rules: legal socialization and the development of legitimacy. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Applied Behavior Science, University of IndianapolisIndianapolisUSA
  2. 2.Sociology and Anthropology, Missouri State UniversitySpringfieldUSA
  3. 3.Núcleo de Estudos da Violência, Universidade de São PauloSão PauloBrazil
  4. 4.Department of Educational Psychology, Ball State UniversityMuncieUSA

Personalised recommendations