Civic Development and Service-Learning

Young people play active roles in their schools, organizations, and communities through civic action, service to others, and other actions. This engagement not only contributes to communities today and sets them on a path of lifelong participation, but it also is a catalyst for their well-being and thriving. Search Institute’s Developmental Assets framework highlights the importance of youth empowerment and service. Recent research emphasizes the role of developmental relationships in inculcating commitments to community engagement, environmental stewardship, and service to others.

The Roots of Engaged Citizenship

Search Institute partners with West Virginia University and University of California, Los Angeles, in this longitudinal study to understand how young people become good members of the community and to identify the developmental roots of active participation in community and society.


Research Reports and Briefs


Organized Activities: Youth Engagement and Why It Matters (Research Brief), Amy Syvertsen, Laura Wray-Lake, and Aaron Metzger

Youth development through service to nature – A study of Student Conservation Association programs (study highlights). Amy K. Syvertsen & Theresa K. Sullivan


Youth Civic and Character Measures Toolkit, Amy Syvertsen, Laura Wray-Lake, and Aaron Metzger

SCA Youth Program Outcome and Critical Program Factors: Summary of Findings, Amy K. Syvertsen, Theresa K. Sullivan, & Chen-Yu Wu


Key findings from the Roots of Engaged Citizenship Project, Amy Syvertsen, Aaron Metzger, and Laura Wray-Lake


Engaging Families in Service: Broadening Service-Learning’s Reach, Impact, and Support, Eugene C. Roehlkepartain and Jenny Friedman

Service-Learning in Community-Based Organizations: A Practical Guide to Starting and Sustaining High-Quality Programs, Eugene C. Roehlkepartain


Beyond Needs Assessments: Identifying a Community’s Resources and Hopes, Eugene C. Roehlkepartain


Benefits of Community-Based Service-Learning, Eugene C. Roehlkepartain

Developing Partnerships for Service-Learning: Starting Points for Community-Based Organizations, Eugene C. Roehlkepartain and Larry Baillis

Developmental Assets: A Framework for Enriching Service-Learning, Eugene C. Roehlkepartain and Peter C. Scales

Service-Learning with Disadvantaged Youth, Eugene C. Roehlkepartain


Community Service and Service-Learning in U.S. Public Schools, 2004: Findings from a National Survey, Peter C. Scales and Eugene C. Roehlkepartain

Peer-Reviewed Articles and Chapters

NOTE: Many of the periodicals listed here may be downloaded or purchased through links provided. Journal articles and book chapters are available through their publishers. Most can be accessed through databases or through the publisher’s websites (often with a fee).

Wray-Lake, L., Metzger, A., & Syvertsen, A. K. (2016). Measuring multidimensional constructs from a developmental perspective: An example from the field of civic development. Applied Developmental Science, 21, 266-284. doi: 10.1080/10888691.2016.1205495

Wray-Lake, L., Syvertsen, A. K., & Flanagan, C. A. (2016). Developmental change in social responsibility during adolescence: An ecological perspective. Developmental Psychology, 52(1), 130. doi: 10.1037/dev0000067

Metzger, A., Syvertsen, A. K., Oosterhoff, B., Babskie, E., & Wray-Lake, L. (2015). How children understand civic actions: A mixed methods perspective. Journal of Adolescent Research. doi: 10.1177/0743558415610002

Stoppa, T., Wray-Lake, L., Syvertsen, A. K., & Flanagan, C. A. (2011). Defining a moment in history: Parental communication with children about September 11, 2001. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 40, 1691-1704. doi: 10.1007/s10964-011-9676-0

Syvertsen, A. K., Wray-Lake, L., Flanagan, C. A., Osgood, D. W., & Briddell, L. (2011). Thirty year trends in American adolescents’ civic engagement: A story of changing participation and educational differences. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21, 586-594. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-7795.2010.00706.x

Wray‐Lake, L., Syvertsen, A., Flanagan, Constance A., & Christens, Brian D. (2011). The developmental roots of social responsibility in childhood and adolescence. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 2011(134), 11-25. doi: 10.1002/cd.308

Flanagan, C. A., Syvertsen, A. K., Gill, S., Gallay, L. S., & Cumsille, P. (2009). Ethnic awareness, prejudice, and civic commitments in four ethnic groups of American adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 38, 500-518. doi: 10.1007/s10964-009-9394-z

Syvertsen, A. K., Stout, M. D., & Flanagan, C. A. (with Mitra, D. L., Oliver, M. B., Sundar, S. S.). (2009). Using elections as teachable moments: A randomized evaluation of the Student Voices civic education program. American Journal of Education, 116, 33-67. doi: 10.1086/605100

Benson, P. L., Clary, E. G., & Scales, P. C. (2007). Altruism and health: Is there a link during adolescence? In S. Post (Ed.), Altruism and health: Perspectives from empirical research (pp. 97-115). London: Oxford University Press. doi: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195182910.003.0009

Flanagan, C. A., Syvertsen, A. K., & Wray, L. D. (2007). Youth political activism: Sources of public hope in the context of globalization. In R. K. Silbereisen & R. M. Lerner (Eds.), Approaches to positive youth development (pp. 243-256). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Flanagan, C. A., & Syvertsen, A. K. (2006). Youth as a social construct and social actor. In L. Sherrod, C. A. Flanagan, R. Kassimir, & A. K. Syvertsen (Eds.), Youth activism: An international encyclopedia (pp. 11-19). Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing.

Scales, P. C., Roehlkepartain, E. C., Neal, M., Kielsmeier, J. C, & Benson, P. L. (2006). Reducing academic achievement gaps: The role of community service and service learning. Journal of Experiential Education, 29, 38-60.

Sherrod, L., Flanagan, C. A., Kassimir, R., & Syvertsen, A. K. (Eds.). (2006). Youth activism: An international encyclopedia. Westport, CT: Greenwood.

Syvertsen, A. K. (2006). Civic identity. In L. Sherrod, C. A. Flanagan, R. Kassimir, & A. K. Syvertsen (Eds.), Youth activism: An international encyclopedia (pp. 142-145). Westport, CT: Greenwood.

Syvertsen, A. K., & Flanagan, C. A. (2006). Peer influences on political development. In L. Sherrod, C. A. Flanagan, R. Kassimir, & A. K. Syvertsen (Eds.), Youth activism: An international encyclopedia (pp. 462-466). Westport, CT: Greenwood.

Bertelsen, A. K., & Flanagan, C. (2005). Political and civic development. In C. Fisher, & R. Lerner (Eds.), Applied developmental science: An encyclopedia of research, policies, and programs (pp. 1168-1171). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Scales, P. C., & Benson, P. L. (2005). Prosocial orientation and community service. In K. A. Moore & L. Lippman (Eds.), What do children need to flourish? (pp. 339-356). New York, NY: Springer.

Scales, P. C., & Roehlkepartain, E. C. (2005). Can service-learning help reduce the achievement gap? New research points toward the potential of service-learning for low-income students. In National Youth Leadership Council, Growing to greatness 2005: The state of service-learning in the United States (pp. 10-22). St. Paul, MN: National Youth Leadership Council.

Scales, P. C., & Roehlkepartain, E. C. (2004) Service to others: A “gateway asset” for school success and healthy development. In J. Kielsmeier, M. Neal, & M. McKinnon (Eds.), Growing to greatness 2004: The state of service-learning in the United States (pp. 26-32). St. Paul, MN: National Youth Leadership Council.

Kielsmeier, J. C., Scales, P. C., Roehlkepartain, E. C., & Neal, M. (2004). Community service and service-learning in public schools. Reclaiming Children and Youth, 13(3), 138-144.

Scales, P. C., Blyth, D. A., Berkas, T. H., & Kielsmeier, J. C. (2000). The effects of service-learning on middle school students’ social responsibility and academic success. Journal of Early Adolescence, 20(3), 332-359. doi: 10.1177/0272431600020003004

Scales, P. C. (1999). Increasing service-learning’s impact on middle school students. Middle School Journal, 30(5): 40-44.

Scales, P .C. (1999). Doing service-learning with young adolescents: The lessons of recent research. In S. Totten, C. Johnson, L. Morrow, & T. S. Briegel (Eds.), Preparing middle level educators:  Practicing what we preach (pp. 85-88).  New York, NY: Garland.

Scales, P. C., & Koppelman, D. J. (1997). Service learning in teacher preparation: Issues and implications. In J. Schine (Ed.), Service learning: 97th yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education (pp.118-135). Washington, DC: National Society for the Study of Education.