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Law-Related Educational Practice and Delinquency Theory

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1987
13 pages
Five federally funded programs to develop and demonstrate effective methods for establishing and implementing law-related education in elementary and secondary schools were evaluated with respect to their effects on law-abiding behavior and juvenile delinquency and the factors leading to it.
The programs operated from 1979 to 1984. They provided courses offering a coherent sequence of law-related topics, usually lasting a semester. The course objectives included improvement of students' attitudes and behavior as well as knowledge. The programs were evaluated by means of questionnaire surveys regarding delinquency theory and self- reported delinquency, as well as tests of knowledge. Pre- and posttest questionnaires were administered to about 1,600 students in the courses and 900 similar students not involved in law-related education. The participants represented 61 classes and 44 comparison classes in 32 schools in six states. Results revealed that the two classes that had the best quality of implementation produced reductions in several types of self-reported delinquency compared to their comparison groups. In contrast, the two classes with the lowest quality of implementation showed increases in several types of self-reported delinquency. Further analysis indicated that knowledge of the law is not sufficient to prevent delinquency. Instead, a context must be created in which students develop a thoughtfully reasoned belief in the legitimacy of our laws and the justice system, as well as the belief that each student should obey those laws. Tables, figures, and 13 reference notes

Date Published: January 1, 1987