Date of Award

Spring 5-7-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Forensic Psychology



First Advisor

Mark Fondacaro

Second Reader

Kelly McWilliams

Third Advisor

Mawia Khogali


The current study examined the legal understanding and decision-making capacities of young adults compared to older adults. Furthermore, the current study examined these two age groups on the basis of a history of criminal justice involvement, antisocial behavior, and education level, in order to determine whether these variables also affect legal understanding and decision-making. One hundred and one subjects participated in this study, grouped by age into younger adults (18-34 years old) and older adults (35 years and older). The results of the current study found that participants with the lowest levels of education performed more poorly on the measure of legal understanding than subjects with higher levels of education. Adults with criminal justice system involvement were found to have lower levels of education and higher ratings of antisocial behavior than adults with no criminal justice system contact. Criminal justice contact was found to have no relation to legal understanding. Finally, there were no significant difference between the two age groups on education, antisocial behavior, and legal understanding, regardless of criminal justice contact. The findings of the current study demonstrate that contact with the criminal justice system, level of education, and antisocial behavior are related to legal understanding in significant ways that may impact adults in the community.



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