Understanding Good Citizenship in Childhood and Adolescence

Schools and communities are crucial training grounds for young people to learn about helping others, but how do youth become good citizens? A new research study is underway to uncover new knowledge about how youth become the kind of citizens who contribute to their communities, help others, and participate in solving social issues.

The study,The Roots of Engaged Citizenship Project, seeks to identify the developmental roots of active participation in communities and society. The word citizen in this study focuses on how young people from all backgrounds think about and participate in their communities. The study is based on the assumption that civic engagement is good for young people's well-being and functioning in other areas of life, and that youth engagement makes our communities and society stronger.

Amy Syvertsen, Ph.D., a Search Institute research scientist, explains that she and her colleagues, Laura Wray-Lake, Ph.D., and Aaron Metzger, Ph.D., have finished the qualitative phase of the study which involved interviewing 90 young people in grades four through twelve. These students lived in Minnesota, West Virginia, and California, representing a range of socioeconomic and racial-ethnic backgrounds.

The Roots of Engaged Citizenship Project: Initial Findings report summarizes the first analyses of these qualitative interviews, including what character strengths young people identify with themselves. For example, the report states that nearly 80 percent of youth identified themselves as leaders, but few youth see themselves as purposeful. The researchers also found that youth were quick to name a variety of informal ways they help others at school, but had more limited experience helping others in their community.

Next, researchers will give a paper and pencil survey to 3,000 students and their parents aimed at modeling the intersection of character strengths, civic engagement, developmental competency, and supportive contexts in childhood and adolescents.

Click here to download a full copy of The Roots of Engaged Citizenship Project: Initial Findings report.



Publish Date: 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

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