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Procedural justice perceptions, legitimacy beliefs, and compliance with the law: a meta-analysis

Abstract

Objectives

The purpose of this study was to compare procedural justice and legitimacy as correlates and predictors of compliance with the law.

Methods

A literature review produced 64 studies, 95 samples, and 196 effect sizes from studies published or conducted sometime between 1990 and February 2018 in which procedural justice was correlated with legitimacy and/or compliance, or legitimacy was correlated with compliance. Fifty samples included all 3 correlations, 3 samples included 2 correlations, and the remaining 42 samples included a single correlation. Two random effects meta-analyses were performed.

Results

Pooled univariate effects for all three correlations achieved significance. Although there was a high degree of heterogeneity in the results and modest evidence of publication bias in one of the subsamples, sensitivity testing indicated that no one study had an undue influence over the results. Using a generalized least squares (GLS) multivariate approach, a path analysis revealed a significant a path from procedural justice to legitimacy, a significant b path from legitimacy to compliance, and a significant c’ path from procedural justice to compliance, but only the a and b paths were significant when the analysis was restricted to studies with longitudinal data.

Conclusions

The current findings suggest that legitimacy beliefs are instrumental in promoting compliance with the law and that while procedural justice perceptions also appear to predict compliance, the effect was relatively weak in this meta-analysis and could not be reliably established in longitudinal datasets.

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Fig. 1

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Correspondence to Glenn D. Walters.

Additional information

The authors would like to thank Thomas Baker, Karin Beijersbergen, Jon Jackson, Cody Jorgensen, Tammy Kochel, Ellen Leslie, Siyu Liu, Natasha Madon, Lieven Pauwels, Catherine Shaffer, Lawrence Sherman, Ivan Sun, Rick Trinker, and Scott Wolfe for providing data unavailable in published sources. We also would like to express our gratitude to Betsy Becker for running the path analysis portion of the results using her SAS code for correlation matrix synthesis and path analysis.

Appendix

Appendix

Table 5 Measures of procedural justice, legitimacy, and compliance from the 64 studies contributing data to the current meta-analysis

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Walters, G.D., Bolger, P.C. Procedural justice perceptions, legitimacy beliefs, and compliance with the law: a meta-analysis. J Exp Criminol 15, 341–372 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11292-018-9338-2

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Keywords

  • Procedural justice
  • Legitimacy beliefs
  • Compliance with the law
  • Meta-analysis