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Age-Graded Differences and Parental Influences on Adolescents’ Obligation to Obey the Law



Legal socialization is the study of how individuals develop their attitudes towards the law and its authorities. While research on perceptions of legal authorities has increased, studies have not adequately examined developmental trends in youths’ obligation to obey the law in particular.


This study uses a cross-sectional sample of 218 adolescent-parent dyads in two states and utilizes two assessment strategies for the obligation to obey the law.


The results indicate that paralleling the age-crime curve, the obligation to obey the law exhibits a curvilinear trend, declining during adolescence before increasing into adulthood. Second, parental perceptions of the obligation to obey the law were consistently associated with their children’s obligation to obey the law throughout adolescence.


Development and intergenerational socialization emerge as vital components in understanding youths’ perceived obligation to obey the law.

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This research was generously supported by the UC Irvine Dean’s Dissertation Data Collection Grant, the American Psychological Foundation (APF) Annette Urso Rickel Foundation Dissertation Award for Public Policy, and the American Psychology-Law Society (APLS) Grants-in-Aid Award.

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Correspondence to Adam Fine.

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Fine, A., Thomas, A., van Rooij, B. et al. Age-Graded Differences and Parental Influences on Adolescents’ Obligation to Obey the Law. J Dev Life Course Criminology 6, 25–42 (2020).

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  • Legal socialization
  • Obligation to obey the law
  • Parenting
  • Legitimacy