Legal cynicism: Independent construct or downstream manifestation of antisocial constructs? New evidence

Taylor Ameri, Kyle A. Burgason, Matt DeLisi, Mark H. Heirigs, Andy Hochstetler, Michael G. Vaughn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Researchers have found that legal cynicism is a significant predictor of crime. Although legal cynicism developed as a form of anomie, it is also plausible that legal cynicism is itself a deviant rationalization to justify one's criminal behavior. As such, legal cynicism might be a derivative manifestation of other individual-level constructs that bear on criminal propensity. We test this possibility by controlling for temperament traits related to antisocial behavior and psychopathic personality features in a sample of residentially incarcerated youth (N = 253). Results from negative binomial models revealed that legal cynicism was significantly associated with self-reported delinquency (including violence), but not total arrests. The significant associations with general delinquency and violence held even when controlling for sociodemographic characteristics. However, the associations were rendered either non-significant or greatly attenuated when we included temperament and psychopathy measures in the models. Overall, findings are convergent with the notion that legal cynicism is a consequence or product of antisocial traits and criminal propensity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-218
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Law and Psychiatry
StatePublished - May 1 2019


  • Delinquency
  • Juvenile offenders
  • Legal cynicism
  • Psychopathy
  • Temperament


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