U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Building a Culture of Lawfulness: Law Enforcement, Legal Reasoning, and Delinquency Among Mexican Youth

NCJ Number
Heath B. Grant
Date Published
209 pages
This book begins with an overview of the theoretical basis and connection of legal socialization to resiliency theory followed by a study for the larger Culture of Lawfulness project in Mexico offering explanation as to the degree to which legal reasoning is affected by legal culture.
With hypotheses focused on the important relationship between legal context and individual likelihood to engage in delinquent behavior, two theoretical perspectives are presented. First, although the legal development tradition borne out of cognitive developmental thought emphasizes the internal processes and structures that individuals use to organize, interpret, and interact with the environment, much of the theoretical and empirical literature has demonstrated the important role that the environment can play in either facilitating or inhibiting legal reasoning development. Second, the legal context includes both formal and informal mechanisms; however, the pathways between informal social control mechanisms, such as peers and family have not been adequately addressed empirically. The theoretical basis noted above for the culture lawfulness approach has its origins in countries as diverse as Hong Kong and Palermo, Sicily. The legal context of Mexico presents numerous challenges in terms of fostering a culture of lawfulness in the face of a legacy of human rights abuses and formerly a semi-authoritarian rule. A study was conducted seeking to examine the possible theoretical and empirical linkages between the legal socialization, procedural justice, and resiliency literatures. Ten variables were selected from the Mexican Culture of Lawfulness pretest instrument with theoretical importance in several areas. It was found that each of the variables had their own effect on delinquency. However, the sample data exhibited a better overall fit to a model that included a “partial mediator” in legal reasoning. In other words, each variable had its own direct effect on delinquency in addition to a path through legal reasoning. Legal reasoning and peer association stood out as the variables with the most significant association with self-reported delinquency. Uniquely noted was support for the police actually retarding legal reasoning to some degree while continuing to exhibit a negative effect on delinquency. Figures, tables and appendixes A-B