Applying Legal Socialization to the Child Welfare System: Do Youths’ Perceptions of Caseworkers Matter?

Karen M. Kolivoski, Jeffrey J. Shook, Heath C. Johnson, Sara Goodkind, Rachel Fusco, Matt DeLisi, Michael G. Vaughn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Legal socialization is the process through which young people develop beliefs in the legitimacy of the law and legal system. Research has examined how perceptions of interactions with authority figures influence beliefs regarding the legitimacy of laws and legal system, thereby shaping compliance with the law (Fagan and Tyler in Soc Justice Res 18:217–242, 2005). Child welfare caseworkers play an integral role in children and youths’ experiences in the child welfare system. However, limited research exists examining the relationship between youths’ perceptions of caseworkers and outcomes such as delinquency. Objective: The goal of this study is to address how perceptions of a youth’s child welfare caseworker influence legal socialization and whether it is related to self-reports of delinquency. Methods: The sample (n = 113) is from youth in two juvenile justice residential facilities. Least trimmed square regressions examine the relationship between perceptions of child welfare caseworkers and legal socialization as a composite measure and its components. The overall measure and individual components are then regressed on self-reports of delinquency. Results: Results indicate youth with more negative perceptions of caseworkers view the legal system as less legitimate and exhibit lower overall legal socialization. Legal socialization is significantly related to delinquency. Conclusion: Findings suggest that, similar to other authority figures, perceptions of child welfare caseworkers are linked to young people’s legal socialization and that legal socialization is related to delinquent behavior. Thus, professionals should be aware of the important role of their relationships when working with children and youth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-83
Number of pages19
JournalChild and Youth Care Forum
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Feb 1

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Springer Science+Business Media New York.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


Dive into the research topics of 'Applying Legal Socialization to the Child Welfare System: Do Youths’ Perceptions of Caseworkers Matter?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this