Estonian Institutions of Justice Within the Legal Socialisation System of Young
Despite having individuality, man is primarily a member of society or a certain social group and his mood, aspirations, habits, needs, value judgements and behaviour depend on the social environment directly surrounding him, which includes material things, mental values and other people. Social environment plays a greater role in the regulation of human behaviour, the more developed society is.
Even from early childhood, a person subconsciously starts receiving what is offered to him by his environment, obtaining in time the social norms and values which shape his course of life until his death. The development of a person is a life-long process of socialisation in the course of which an individual acquires a certain system and culture of social roles, knowledge, norms and values.
Socialisation covers socially controllable purposeful processes (e.g. upbringing) and spontaneous processes. In the course of socialisation, however, both an individual and the social environment change.
A person acquires the system of knowledge, norms and values through social experience.
While the experience of animals is divided in two
(i) individual i.e. everything acquired during the life of an individual and
(ii) experience of the species which is passed on mainly by biological channels, in human society social experience may be added to these two, which is incarnated in the works of tangible and spiritual art, structure of society, language and personality types.
The system of established previous social experience is usually something on which a new social experience is gained, the base one already has certain mental visions about, such as what is good and bad, rights and obligations, understanding of his position in the system of social relations and social structure. Man usually understands that his existence outside such relations is impossible. He understands that a certain kind of behaviour is expected from him, he must recognise certain social values and follow the norms of social behaviour.
Unfortunately, one’s social experience in the social norms recognised by society may in certain cases be negative (e.g. when an existing criminal environment reproduces new criminals). Most often it occurs via the family. Nolens volens, a child acquires the tendencies and dominant beliefs of the family. In most cases, a socially defective family does not itself form the negative traits on the child, but enables the asocial factors of the external environment to do it. Children brought up in such families do not get the necessary moral knowledge, skills and habits and do not gain moral tempering to withstand negative external influences.
The gaining of social experience is a lifelong process but its forms and mechanisms change in line with dominant activities and dominating roles. To fulfil each new social role, added during life, additional social, i.e. legal experience is needed. Thus, socialisation lasts throughout a person’s life.
The process of socialisation should lead to the outcome that people behave in keeping with the norms and rules effective in their society. Notions of cultural and social norms, including the rules of law, are especially important in this respect. If members of society do not pay sufficient attention to such standards and rules, all social groups or appropriate instances must see to that individual persons meet the norms and standards in future.
As the potential of society to transmit social experience is boundless whereas the opportunities of an individual are limited due to time and space, an optimum quantity of information given to an individual must be found, sufficient for his socialisation and mastering of the knowledge requisite within society.
By its nature, socialisation is a dual process, with society on one side and individuals preparing to enter social life or already participating in it on the other side; society moulds personality via its institutions, and individuals, being the active actors within society, influence the social environment with their activity, giving direction to the activity of social institutions.
The socialisation of a personality cannot be separated from society and the changes it undergoes – it must be studied as an integral social process. Although the process of development of personality is above all determined by the direct effect of the social and economic formation, all peculiarities of an individual’s development cannot be explained against this background alone, i.e. via macroenvironment. In order to be able to understand the socialisation of a personality, the microenvironment must be studied in depth: family, school, peer groups, etc. – thus, the effect of all those institutions which we call the socialisation agents.
Several socialisation agents at a time take part in the formation of a personality, consequently the control and management of different socialisation agents is needed to mould a personality adequate for a given society.
Thus, an individual is not directly connected with society in the process of socialisation but rather via several elements, the so-called socialisation agents, being various institutions of society (e.g. family, peer groups, school, work collective, religious sects, mass media, etc.), whose task is to mould personality. We may broadly group socialisation agents in four greater groups:
(2) groups of individuals;
(3) social instances;
(4) materialised outputs of social consciousness.
The social microenvironment of man consists of small groups and individuals. Thus, small groups are one of the most important groups of the microenvironment, the more so because individual people, as a rule, belong to various small groups, which, in turn, are the carriers of a certain way of life. Consequently, small groups are of decisive importance in the socialisation of an individual.
The meaning and importance of various socialisation agents hold for a person change rather a lot over his life-time: parents are of decisive importance for the development of an infant; peer groups, teachers, co-pupils, teachers at summer camps, leaders of scout (or guide) organisations, etc. become more important than parents for a schoolchild. When a person moves from one social status to another, the institutions to the norms of which the person must adapt his behaviour and which try to amalgamate the person in the respective social environment change their place or are removed from the hierarchy of importance.
Mass media (especially TV) is a peculiar, we can even say a universal socialisation agent, which helps mould the value judgements of people throughout their lives irrespective of age. Of course, the impact of television and radio broadcasts, press, movies, etc. on the young is greater, more decisive and noticeable but undoubtedly mass media is the tool which helps adults too gain role models that can be applied to their social environment which changes constantly and requires, again and again, accommodating to.
Legal socialisation is one of the subclasses of socialisation. The legal character of socialisation is expressed not just in that an individual acquires the legal norms which are effective within society as in that the impact of law on the consciousness of man helps him internalise the sociocultural values of society, legal values included. In other words: the legal measures prescribed by the state in a way focus the attention of a personality to the most important social phenomena, although as a rule neither citizens nor officials who represent the interests of the state are aware of it.
The relative importance of socialisation agents in respect of different population groups depend both on the peculiarities of the social groups themselves (e.g. peculiarities arising out of their age) as well as on the level of society’s development and the peculiarities of a concrete social environment.
As Estonian society has experienced a thorough breakthrough in giving up socialism and in starting building society based on a market economy, a question arises as to the current role of different social institutions currently in the legal socialisation of the young and whether there have been shifts in this respect compared with the preceding one and, if so, which shifts? Help in finding answers to theses questions can be provided by a study of the legal consciousness of the young commenced on the initiative of the Tartu branch of the Society of Legal Psychologists and Sociologists in 1995 (Grant no. 2169). This study is a repeat study on the basis of the concept developed in 1974 by the Criminology Laboratory of the Tartu State University and the first phase of it was carried out in 1974-1977 when, for the first time, an attempt was made to determine the level of legal consciousness amongst Estonian youth and the effectiveness of the channels that influence it. The current ongoing study is primarily a descriptive one and thus no additional hypotheses were formulated. The researchers proceed from the standpoint that the development and behaviour of the youth is the result of the cumulative effect of three blocks of factors. Those blocks are
(1) that of values and attitudes;
(2) behavioural determinants (agents of influence) including communication partners, social institutions and mass media tools;
(3) behavioural inputs which embody such data as obedience to law, educational milieu, sociodemographic indicators, etc.
In this paper, I will analyse the indicators of the second block on the basis of the Soviet youth and the analogous youth population in today’s Estonia.
The respondents are 15-18-year-old adolescents whose social position and level of legal socialisation vary considerably:
(1) secondary school students of who a majority come from moderately successful families and who presumably have a higher level of legal consciousness compared with other groups of youth because those adolescents mostly come from complete, harmonious families with a higher level of education than other respondents;
(2) students of vocational schools who aim to be skilled workers and find work in the studied speciality after finishing school. These youngsters mostly come from workers’ families who, in these times, often have difficulties in making ends meet;
(3) delinquents, i.e. people convicted by a court.
Within this population we have adolescents with apparent socialisation disturbances who have not been able to accept generally accepted social norms and whose successful return to society is extremely complicated in view of current social changes in Estonia which, unfortunately favour only successful and wealthy people. The youth in the given group come mostly from broken and/or asocial homes where insufficient attention is paid to the legal education of children.
The impact of a socialisation agent on the development of a person depends on how much authority a particular individual attaches to such agents. In order to measure in which direction different socialisation agents influence the young, we used two blocks of features:
(1) Do the respondents agree that they mostly received their knowledge about law from the listed socialisation agents (hereinafter: gaining of legal knowledge);
(2) Do the respondents agree that knowledge about how to behave and not to behave has mainly been gained from the listed socialisation agents (hereinafter: reception of behavioural guidelines).
The results in percentages and on the basis of mean values are given in Tables 1 and 2.
If we present the ranking of sources of legal knowledge on the basis of the 1995 poll and by the previously mentioned key influences, we get the following hierarchy*1:
|Secondary school students||Vocational school students||Delinquents|
|2.||television||newspapers|| television, |
|4.||journals/magazines|| radio, |
|9.||^||relatives|| relatives, |
|12.||^||legal literature||legal literature|
|14.||siblings|| fiction, |
|15.||theatre||^|| theatre, |
This reveals that mass media communications – television and newspapers - are the main source of legal knowledge for youngsters. What is a little surprising is that pupils of vocational schools and delinquents nominate their mother as an important source of legal knowledge whereas literature, teachers and even radio are at the bottom end of the hierarchy. If we compare this with the results of the 1975 poll, we can see that back then school played a very important role in giving legal knowledge being on the top of the hierarchy. Today, school as an agent of legal socialisation has abandoned its leading position to media. This may be explained by the falling prestige of school and teachers in today’s society and to the fact that apparently legal problems are treated insufficiently or are not addressed at all in schools. So, the young take in law-related information from mass media channels, which often necessarily do not complement the legal knowledge of the young, resorting merely to a description of wrongdoings. Therefore there exists a danger that the growing generation obtain rather inadequate legal knowledge, which often does not enable them to adequately appraise their own behaviour or that of their friends.
The greatest shift in the ranking of legal knowledge appears, if we compare the results of the two polls, among the students of vocational schools: j – correlation coefficient is 0.44. The greatest dislocations were the friends moving up from the 11th place to the 5th, mother up from 9th to 3rd, teacher’s importance dropping from 5th to 8th in the hierarchy, school down from 1st to 10th, legal literature from 6th down to 12th and cinema down from 7th to 13th. The shifts with other key influences as regards the sources of legal knowledge were smaller.
The ranking of legal knowledge sources is interesting to compare with the hierarchy of those socialisation agents from who the young get behavioural guidelines. On the basis of the 1995 poll, we get the following ranking:
|Secondary school students||Vocational school students||Delinquents|
| journals/magazines, radio,|
|12.||siblings|| legal literature, |
|14.|| legal literature,|
Firstly, we should mention the leading role of the home in giving behavioural guidelines, where both parents have a strong influence. The roles of television, friends and school are great here, too. It comes out rather clearly that the young do not identify the sources of behavioural guidelines with the sources of legal knowledge or behavioural guidelines with legal knowledge.
For a young person to get behavioural guidelines, his or her personal contact with a person who he or she respects and who he or she can ask for advice is still the most important. Compared with behavioural guidelines, legal knowledge holds more objective importance for the young. Among important sources of behavioural guidelines, the respondents mentioned school, i.e. schoolmates whose behaviour they copy while school as a source of legal knowledge holds a more demure place in the estimations of the young.
Behavioural guidelines need not always relate only to problems with legal behaviour, as social behaviour is regulated by other social norms too. Thus, a person whom one respects may be consulted on any behavioural norms. The level of legal knowledge demonstrates how well the person is aware of the currently valid and accepted legal norms in society.
When comparing the results of the 1975 and 1995 polls insofar as the sources of behavioural guidelines are concerned we can see that there do not exist substantial differences in their ranking (see: Table 2). This confirms once more the great role played in the life, development and socialisation of a young person by his home, parents and school. On the basis of j – correlation coefficient – a greater change has occurred again with the pupils of vocational schools (j = 0,24), whose answers demonstrate that in receiving behavioural guidelines, friends play a greater part, who were placed 4th on the corresponding hierarchy (8th in 1975) whilst the roles of cinema (9th in 1975 and 12th in 1995) and teachers (5th in 1975 and 9th in 1995) have reduced. Shifts were not so great with other key influences.
Institutions of justice hold an important place among the legal socialisation agents of the young. Their role in the legal education of citizens is the more important and their activities the more effective, the more prestigious the position of such institutions is in the eyes of people.
We can assess the prestige of a specific profession on two levels:
(1) its social prestige which depends on social needs and the social demand for the particular work and for such employees;
(2) the level of persons or groups, i.e. the individual prestige of a profession in which case the estimation given by an individual or social group to a profession is important.
This estimation depends on the level of recognition and respect required by the individual.
Appraisals of prestige on an individual, group and a social level may concur but may also be considerably different. In studying the estimation of youth of the prestige of different professions, we must take into account that they do not have experience in working in different jobs and thus their estimation is largely based on the stereotypes formed in society. Whilst the young have an image of different professions, the social prestige and popularity of jobs still play an important role in forming their hierarchy of prestigious professions.
Insofar as the prestige of institutions of justice and legal professions is concerned, it depends largely on how effectively such institutions function, on the contact of a person with them and the impression left by the contact as well as on the salary rates of officials in comparison with the salaries paid to representatives of other professions.
The prestige of institutions of justice is directly connected with legal education: if the youth do not value the activities of legal institutions and do not respect the officials of such institutions, there is no sense hoping that legal propaganda or the general preventive effect of court judgements will alter perceptions.
It is also logical that the more educated a person is in legal matters, the better knowledge he or she has about the work of the agencies of legal protection. This awareness in turn shows how great is their role in improving the legal culture of the nation.
In our study we tried to research into the prestige of legal protection authorities by investigating how many of the young would agree to work in respective agencies. We offered such legal professions as prosecutor, advocate, judge, police officer and security police officer. As a comparison, we also enquired about vocations which traditionally influence young people: teaching, head of offices and politics.
Table 3 presents the estimations of secondary and vocational school pupils and delinquents of those professions. The comparative data of the two polls permit us to assert that major dislocations have occurred in the prestige of the professions. While in the 1975 poll, the youth were the most likely to agree to work in security police organs, followed by as a director of a factory and then militia officer, the materials collected in 1995 demonstrate that now the youth believe it is prestigious to work as a director of a factory or head of an office – this is the standpoint held both by law-abiding and delinquent youth. The standpoint is understandable given the influence of the holders of those positions in the current market economy situation. The respondents are similar in their opinion that the profession of advocate is the most popular amongst legal professions – 31.9% of secondary school pupils, 23.5% vocational school pupils and 24.0% delinquents would wish to work as an advocate in the future. This can be explained down to the stereotypical opinion that the work of an advocate is more creative compared with the more “routine” legal professions plus the income of an advocate is nothing to complain about.
However, the estimations of law-abiding and delinquent youth of other legal professions differ. The hierarchy offered by secondary school pupils according to the later poll was 1) head of office, 2) advocate, 3) prosecutor, 4) judge, 5) police officer, 6-7) security police officer, politician, 8) teacher. The hierarchy of professions according to the estimations of vocational school pupils: 1) head of office, 2) advocate, 3-4) police officer, security police, 5) prosecutor, 6-7) judge, politician, 8) teacher. The results of delinquent respondents were as follows: 1) head of office, 2) advocate, 3-4) prosecutor, security police officer, 5) politician, 6-7) judge, police officer, 8) teacher. As we can see, the estimation of the latter population on the profession of the judge and police officer is relatively low. Obviously this is due to their personal experience. At the same time it is interesting that the prestige of prosecutor has improved in the eyes of delinquent youth: while the 1975 poll placed the prosecutor’s profession on one of the lower “pedestals” in the answers of the delinquents, sharing the 6th-8th place with teacher and politician, in the current poll materials, the prosecutor and security police officer share the 3rd and 4th place. Such a breakthrough could have been caused by better knowledge of the functions of officials in the agencies of legal protection. A few decades ago, a prosecutor was just a counsel for the prosecution, appraising all cases through the prism of this role. But if an advocate appraises a juridical case as a prosecutor while the prosecutor acts as an advocate, the way these two professions are perceived changes immediately. The flexibility of a legal system is a condition precedent if we want to remove stereotypical models of thought.
The prestige of teaching continues to be low in the eyes of the young: more than a half of the respondents categorically rejected the vocation (this was true of all respondent populations). From which we can conclude that the pedagogical specialities are studied at university solely to obtain a higher education, with the hope of avoiding the somewhat unrewarding professional life of a schoolteacher.
On the basis of the above, it can be said that the appraisal of social institutions and their prestige is relatively low in the eyes of the young. As a general rule, those institutions with which there is more contact are appraised relatively lower. It can be guessed that relatively often those authorities make mistakes in their work, which cause the development of correspondingly negative attitude amongst the younger generation.
It is interesting to compare the previously presented opinions with the appraisals of the students of the Faculty of Law of various professions, first and foremost of legal professions. Students of law have been interviewed in this respect on two occasions – in 1995 and in 1998. Table 4 gives the results of questions as mean values. As can be seen, appraisals are a little bit different here: the leader in terms of sheer prestige is indisputably the profession of an advocate, followed by the professions of a judge and head of office. At the same time, it strikes the eye that during the past three years a certain shift has occurred in the opinions of law students. While in 1995 the second most prestigious profession was that of a head of office, in 1998, this position is held by that of judge. The position of a politician has become more popular despite public fights for power and scandals amongst the major political leaders of the country.
Compared with the school age respondent groups, the attitude of students to the teacher’s profession is somewhat milder. This is probably due to the fact that students are more eager to study and place more value on education. At the same time, the polls demonstrate a low perception of the police officer’s profession in the eyes of law students – of the respondents to the 1998 poll, none of the students wished to work as a police officer in the future. 37.5% ticked the answer “rather no than yes”, 31.2% absolutely refused to work as an officer. Attitude to the profession of security police officer is no better – 41.6% answered that they would rather not choose the profession. For 27% this profession is absolutely unacceptable.
These results once again confirm the low prestige of police in our society which may be explained by the relatively high work load, a certain ineffectiveness in solving dire crimes and in controlling organised crime, a lack of modern equipment and relatively low rates of pay.
To sum up, it can be said that socialisation agents form inherently related groups within themselves. Within these groups, individual agents can replace each other without substantially influencing the socialisation process. But if a group of certain agents is defective, the result of their effect is defective too.
We could not detect any special agents of local socialisation. Legal socialisation occurs in line with general socialisation, being one of its aspects. What we did identify was that socialisation agents form hierarchical structures, which differ in different groups of youth. This is easily understandable as even the earliest (i.e. childhood) socialisation is different, depending on home and parents. The foundation of the later stages of socialisation is laid within a family and primarily in the first stage of socialisation. The acceptance and internalisation of social (including legal) norms in further life is directly connected with the impact of different socialisation agents on a specific individual.
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2. Voitovich, S. A. Dinamika prestizha i privlekatelnosti professii (Dynamics of Prestige and Attractiveness of Professions). - Kiev: 1989.
3. Yefremova, G. H.; Lezhava, G.Sh.; Ratinov, A.R.; Shavgulidze, T.G. Obchestvennoye mneniye i prestuplenie (Public Opinion and Crimes). - Tbilisi: 1984.
4. Ivanov, S. Nekotorye problemy teorii sotsializatsii (Some Problems of Socialisation Theory). - Moscow: 1972.
*1 All rankings based on mean values.