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Pogledaj Full Version : Socializing Youth for Citizenship



Željko Zidarić
28th-May-2012, 02:33 AM
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Jonathon F. Zaff, Principal Investigator
jfzaff@yahoo.com
Oksana Malanchuk, University Of Michigan
Erik Michelsen, Child Trends
Jacquelynne Eccles, University Of Michigan

CIRCLE WORKING PAPER 03
MARCH 2003

Abstract
Most researchers to date have theorized that programs to promote positive citizenship should begin with an opportunity for adolescents to participate in positive citizenship activities, such as community service or political volunteering. In the present study, we hypothesize that programs and policies to promote positive citizenship may need to begin by first focusing on informal interactions in youths’ lives, such as with parents and peers, and on the culture in which youth are raised. We hypothesize that these informal interactions socialize or “prime” youth to have the motivation and values that subsequently lead to positive citizenship behaviors. To examine this hypothesis, we analyzed a large, diverse, longitudinal survey. The data were collected during a historical period in which a major opportunity to participate in a positive citizenship activity, and one that was salient to a large percentage of the sample, was present: The Million Man March. Our subsequent findings contribute to the field of youth civic engagement by providing more concrete evidence for the unique effects that informal social interactions have on youth, above and beyond previous citizenship
engagement, religiosity, parental education, ethnicity and gender.

Furthermore, we found that early adolescents who have altruistic values and a motivation to better society are more likely to engage in citizenship activities later in adolescence. More specifically for African American youth, ethnic-related experiences and attitudes that are salient or matter to the youths’ self-concepts appear to be important predictors of later citizenship engagement. From this finding, we theorize the key component of ethnic socialization to be the salience of the socialization and the subsequent citizenship activity to the youth’s self-concept. The results are discussed with regard to program and policy development as well as future research directions.



Most researchers to date have theorized that programs to promote positive citizenship should begin with an opportunity for adolescents to participate in positive citizenship activities, such as community service or political volunteering. In the present study, we hypothesize that programs and policies to promote positive citizenship may need to begin by first focusing on informal interactions in youths’ lives, such as with parents and peers, and on the culture in which youth are raised. We hypothesize that these informal interactions socialize or “prime” youth to have the motivation and values that subsequently lead to positive citizenship behaviors. To examine this hypothesis, we use data from a large, diverse, regional longitudinal survey to test whether the relationship between social, familial and cultural factors and positive citizenship behaviors is mediated by the development of altruism and motivation to be a good person in order to benefit society. The implications of our findings will be discussed in the context of program and policy development and future research directions.

Importance of Positive Citizenship

Adolescents have the capacity to be positive citizens in their communities. They can act to make their homes, communities, schools, and/or society a better place by being environmentally active, volunteering in community or political organizations, and committing smaller pro-social acts such as helping someone across the street. Adolescent positive citizenship has the dual effect of providing needed services to the community and society, and promoting psychological, social, and intellectual growth for the young citizen (Aguirre International, 1999; Conrad & Hedin, 1982; Janoski, Musick & Wilson, 1998; Johnson, Beebe, Mortimer & Snyder, 1998).

Unfortunately, relatively few youth participate in positive citizenship activities. For instance, although there is a trend toward greater youth participation in community service (Faison & Flanagan, 2001), fewer than 50% (and, depending on the data cited, closer to 30%) of youth actually participate in volunteer activities (e.g., Child Trends, 2002; Flanagan, Bowes, Jonsson, Csap, & Sheblanova, 1998; Harris Interactive, 2001; National Association of Secretaries of State, 1998; U.S. Department of Education, 1999; Zaff, Moore, Papillo & Williams, in press).

The relatively low rates of volunteering are consistent with the low rates of another component of positive citizenship, political involvement. Recent data suggest a decrease in political involvement and an increasing cynicism among youth about the political process (Putnam, 2000). This is particularly important, considering, as de Tocqueville (1969) posited, that broad participation in the political process results in the strongest democracies. According to the National Election Studies, only 46% of voting eligible youth born in 1975 or later went to the polls in the 1996 presidential election, with a drop to 38% in the 2000 election. That percentage is significantly lower than for voters born between 1959 and 1974 (62%) and all other older Americans (over 80%). Non-presidential, federal election years give an even bleaker view of youth political involvement, with 20% and 15% of youth voting in 1994 and 1998, respectively. Political involvement can also take the form of political activism and club membership.

However, in one nationally representative study, only 14% of adolescents and young adults between 15 and 24 years of age reported ever participating in a club or organization that directly deals with politics or the government (National Association of Secretaries of State, 1998).

These low rates of political and community involvement do not mean that adolescents are disengaged from the world. In fact, nearly 80% of youth report being members of clubs, such as sports teams or academic and arts clubs (Ehrle & Moore, 1999; National Association of Secretaries of State, 1998). The key issue, then, is not how to engage youth in general activities, but how to engage youth in positive citizenship activities.

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