Social Justice Research

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 41–60 | Cite as

Brazilian Adolescents’ Just World Beliefs and Its Relationships with School Fairness, Student Conduct, and Legal Authorities

  • Kendra J. Thomas
  • Winnie M. Mucherah


Prior research has demonstrated that adolescence is a sensitive period to develop their belief in a just world (BJW), both general and personal. Research has found significant relationships between BJW, perceptions of school fairness, student conduct, and perceptions of legal authorities. However, no research has combined these constructs in one model to get a broader picture of how adolescents construct their worldview of fairness and how this influences their compliance with authorities. This study analyzed 475 Brazilian adolescents across three schools. A partially mediated and a mediated model were tested to determine if students’ BJW relate directly or indirectly to student conduct and perceptions of legal authorities through school fairness. The partially mediated model best fit the data. Personal BJW predicted students’ perceptions of the school fairness, which predicted student conduct. General BJW and school fairness predicted adolescents’ perceptions of legal authorities. Perceptions of school fairness are influenced by Personal BJW and are predictive of students’ conduct and opinions of legal authorities. By analyzing multiple constructs simultaneously, this study provides a picture of how these overlapping conceptualizations of justice interact. Students who do not believe their school is fair are less likely to respect and abide by the rules and are more likely to also expect unfair treatment from law enforcement and judicial officials. This study points to the importance of students’ perceptions of justice at school and highlights the far-reaching implications of students who do not perceive or expect justice in their lives.


School climate Fairness Justice Student conduct Just world Adolescence 



This study did not receive any outside funding source.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Both 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 institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of IndianapolisIndianapolisUSA
  2. 2.Ball State UniversityMuncieUSA

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