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Investigating general and specific links from adolescents’ perceptions of ecological assets to their civic actions

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Abstract

Civic engagement is an important marker of thriving among adolescents, and more research is needed that clarifies the ecological assets (positive supports across settings) that foster youth civic engagement. Simultaneously modeling associations between multiple ecological assets and civic behaviors can provide a nuanced view of the way adolescents’ ecological assets relate to distinct forms of civic engagement. To advance positive youth development theory, we used a bifactor modeling approach to examine general and specific ecological asset factors in relation to volunteering, conventional political, online political, and informal helping behaviors. In a large ethnically diverse sample of adolescents, the general ecological asset factor was positively associated with informal helping only. Classroom civic learning opportunities were positively associated with volunteering, conventional, and online political behaviors. Family political discussions were positively associated with conventional and online political behaviors. Our study suggests that civic engagement should be understood multidimensionally and that broad and specific ways of conceptualizing ecological assets have merit for understanding different types of youth civic engagement.
... The same pattern holds for friends (Quintelier, 2015) and classroom settings (Gould, 2011;Torney-Purta, Lehmann, Oswald, & Schulz, 2001). Discussions of politics and social issues help adolescents formulate views on issues, spur them to seek out news and information, and motivate civic actions, especially political behaviors (Hess, 2009;Pancer et al., 2007;Wray-Lake & Sloper, 2016). Likewise, political discussions with parents predicted higher civic commitments among Black and Latinx youth and higher political participation for Latinx youth over time (Diemer, 2012). ...
... Youth's experiences of civic engagement may be defined and shaped in important ways based on this salient contextual backdrop, as youth in our sample emphasized community violence as an overriding feature of their neighborhoods. Research on developmental contexts of youth civic engagement largely focus on ecological assets (e.g., Duke et al., 2009;Wray-Lake & Sloper, 2016;Zaff et al., 2008), whereas the role of adversities is less well understood. Our work stands to advance PYD theory by explicating how community violence shapes these youth's opportunities for civic engagement. ...
... Ecological assets, defined as supports and resources in youth's everyday lives, are integral to facilitating civic engagement and healthy youth development Kahne & Sporte, 2008;Lerner et al., 2014). A wealth of empirical evidence rooted in a PYD perspective documents the role of ecological assets such as supportive community connections, adult modeling of civic engagement, and discussions of social and political issues in helping youth become civically active (Duke et al., 2009;Wray-Lake & Sloper, 2016;Zaff et al., 2008). Ecological assets such as safe spaces, opportunities to belong, and feeling heard make it more likely for youth to develop personal or civic empowerment Russell et al., 2009;Serido, Borden, & Perkins, 2011). ...
Article
Through civic engagement, adolescents can increase community vitality, challenge injustices, and address social problems. Positive youth development (PYD) theory and research has generated knowledge of ecological assets (resources and supports in everyday environments) that foster youth civic engagement. Yet, assets and opportunities are not equally available to all youth. Youth of color in urban high‐poverty neighborhoods merit more concerted attention in research on civic development to inform theory, policy, and practice. A primary goal of this monograph is to broaden academic and public discourse about what civic engagement looks like and how it develops for urban youth of color who live in high‐poverty neighborhoods. We conducted one time, face‐to‐face interviews and brief quantitative surveys with 87 youth of color (90% Black and Black multiracial; 59.8% male; ages 12–19) recruited from five youth centers in Rochester, New York, from 2015 to 2016. Interviews elicited youth's perspectives on how they define and experience civic engagement, community problems, connections and discussions to community, and adult supports. We used an inductive qualitative methodology. In Chapter I, we review what is known about civic engagement among urban youth of color. We lay out evidence for ecological assets that support youth civic engagement, aligned with a PYD perspective, and articulate ways to expand beyond PYD to understand youth empowerment and urban contexts. In Chapter II, we summarize national and local contexts that may shape the experiences of urban youth of color in our study. To set the stage for the empirical chapters that follow, we describe our sample, study design, and methodology. In Chapter III, we examine how urban youth of color in Rochester experience community violence and discuss the implications of these experiences for civic development. Youth articulated violence as a serious community problem and powerfully discussed frequent, personal, direct and indirect exposures to violence. Due to fear and lack of safety, some youth strategically disconnected from community and relationships and experienced disempowerment. Others reacted to violence with a tendency toward self‐protection. For some, community violence was a catalyst for civic action. In Chapter IV, we investigate how youth defined and experienced civic engagement. Youth's civic participation spanned helping community, engaging politically, participating in school or community organizations, engaging in social and leisure activities, and taking personal responsibility. Youth's civic actions were largely informal and localized. Some civic participation was contextualized as a response to community violence, such as intervening to protect peers from harm. Some youth were not civically engaged. In Chapter V, we map out what civic empowerment looks like for these youth and how civic empowerment links to civic action. Supporting prior theory, we found evidence for emotional, relational, and cognitive dimensions of civic empowerment and experiences of civic disempowerment. Emotional empowerment was most closely aligned with civic action, although any expressions of civic empowerment suggest youth are developing building blocks for civic participation. In Chapter VI, we investigate ecological assets that support youth's civic development. Safe community spaces such as youth centers provided familiarity and comfort, opportunities to forge connections with others, and places to help and be helped. Adults supported youth by enabling youth to feel heard, not judging them, serving as role models, and offering guidance and support. Youth were equally articulate about how adults fail to support or empower them. We conclude that some assets generally support positive development and others specifically foster civic development. In Chapter VII, we integrate findings across chapters into a conceptual model of four distinct pathways of civic development. We systematically examined differences among youth who are disengaged, personally responsible, safely engaged, and broadly engaged. All pathways are adaptive, and youth found different ways to navigate community violence and other adversities. As summarized in Chapter VIII, our study informs theory and future research on civic engagement among urban youth of color in contexts of adversity. We put forward four important elements needed for theory of civic development to be relevant for urban youth of color. Then we offer policy and practice recommendations: (a) investment in safe spaces and violence‐reduction policies should be a top priority; (b) youth should be involved in decision‐making about solutions to issues of concern to them; (c) civic engagement programs and opportunities should center on local issues and allow for multiple forms of engagement; (d) all youth should be heard and taken seriously by the adults in their lives.
... More broadly, this study builds on research that has identified distinct Note. The configural model chi square was adjusted based on a null model that constrains longitudinal item variances and longitudinal item means, respectively (Little, 2013) a After achieving measurement invariance, we assessed whether it was tenable to equate the latent means across groups, using a change in CFI of greater than 0.01 and a change in RMSEA of 0.015 as the criteria Journal of Youth and Adolescence predictors of political versus prosocial forms of civic engagement, including structural justifications for social problems and political discussions (Alvis & Metzger, 2019;Metzger & Smetana, 2009;Wray-Lake & Sloper, 2016). This study's longitudinal evidence, which rigorously controls for prior engagement and spans 2 years, suggests that awareness of societal inequality has lasting effects on the development of political behaviors and protest beliefs, but not belief in staying informed or prosocial values and behaviors. ...
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Adolescents’ awareness of societal inequality has been linked to higher civic engagement. This study expands prior research by testing whether awareness of inequality differentially motivates prosocial and political forms of civic engagement, whether adults’ modeling of civic agency moderates links between awareness of inequality and civic engagement, and whether associations differ by race/ethnicity. Longitudinal data came from 3208 youth (Mage = 14.1, Range = 7–20, 56.1% female, 39.7% White, 38.4% Latinx, 12.3% Black, and 6.9% Asian). Across racial/ethnic groups, awareness of societal inequality predicted increased political behaviors and beliefs 2 years later. Adults’ modeling of civic agency predicted certain forms of civic engagement but did not moderate links. The findings advance theory and research on the motivating role of awareness of inequality for political beliefs and actions.
... Previous research has already highlighted some key factors associated with adolescents' political behavior, knowledge, attitudes and beliefs. Some of these are: their parents' political engagement, discussion about politics between parents and adolescents, discussions in school, general political interest and also certain socio-cognitive skills such as empathy (Andolina et al., 2003;McIntosh et al., 2007;Wray-Lake & Sloper, 2016;Metzger et al., 2018). ...
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Study Questions: This study has explored the contribution of several individual factors towards the prediction of Radicalism Intention and Approval. Its focus is on youth, their significance quest and multiple perspectives of injustice. Also, a distinction has been made between the approval of an Islamist form of radicalization and the legitimation of various other forms of violence. Subjects and Methods: 746 young (48.5% of women, Mage = 17.27) attending schools in Belgium completed a self-report questionnaire evaluating radicalism intention, radicalism approval, justice sensitivity, the need to belong, significance quest, political interest and political engagement. Findings: The results demonstrate that radicalism approval and radicalism intention are significantly and positively correlated. Radicalism Intention was higher in boys, in people who perceived injustice from an observer perspective, in participants who reported a lower need to belong and higher political intention and engagement and in those who manifested a higher Search of Meaning. However, Radicalism Approval was more present in older participants, and in those who perceived injustice from a beneficiary perspective. Unlike the Radicalism Intention Model, political interest and commitment are not associated with the approval of radicalization. Therefore, radicalism intention and radicalism approval are not explained by the same factors. Radicalism intention seems to be driven by personal, social and political interpretations of society, whereas radicalism approval seems driven more by feelings of responsibility and empathy for those suffering from collective injustice. Major Implications: Practical implications underline the necessity to consider and nuance youths’ interpretations of social injustice and their experienced feelings of responsibility.
... Lastly, there may be additional individual developmental antecedents not considered in this study as well as important contextual influences, such as peers, parents, and school that influence adolescents' civic engagement (Metzger and Smetana 2009;Wray-Lake and Sloper 2016). Previous research has shown that parents may implicitly or explicitly encourage adolescents to become involved in communityoriented activities in early adolescence (Zaff et al. 2008). ...
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Civic competencies are essential prerequisites for adolescents’ active citizenship; however, little is known about their developmental precursors. In order to address this research gap, this study examined the role of sympathy in late childhood, early, and mid adolescence for civic competencies in mid and late adolescence. Based on a representative sample of 1118 Swiss children (51% females, Mage T1 = 9.26, SDageT1 = 0.20, rangeageT1: 8.50–9.67–years), this study investigated associations of sympathy with four components of civic competence: attitudes about social justice, informal helping, perceived efficacy to take responsibility and perceived political efficacy. The findings revealed that sympathy in late childhood (i.e., age 9) reflected an early predictor of all four components of civic competence assessed 6 years later. Moreover, sympathy in early adolescence (i.e., age 12) positively predicted attitudes about social justice and informal helping in late adolescence (i.e., age 18). Lastly, changes in sympathy from mid to late adolescence (i.e., age 15 to 18) positively correlated with changes in all four components of civic competence. This study highlights that civic competencies reflect a multidimensional construct that starts to form in late childhood, with sympathy being a central individual predictor in the emergence of civic competencies during adolescence.
... Prior research has identified a number of individual and contextual factors that are associated with adolescents' political behavior, behavioral intentions, beliefs, or knowledge. Key factors include parents' political engagement, parent-adolescent discussion of political events, open classroom climates, opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities, close ties to social networks, higher political interest and efficacy, and sociocognitive competencies such as empathy and future orientation (e.g., Andolina, Jenkins, Zukin, & Keeter, 2003;McIntosh, Hart, & Youniss, 2007;Metzger et al., 2018;Wray-Lake & Sloper, 2016). While helpful in delineating a range of developmental assets that support adolescents' political engagement, research has given relatively less attention to factors that fall outside of traditional conceptualizations of 'assets'. ...
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This study examined associations among adolescent risk preference and political engagement using nationally representative Monitoring the Future data from high school seniors (N=109,574; modal age=18 years) spanning 1976-2014. Greater risk preference was associated with greater past voting, donating to a campaign, writing government officials, boycotting, and protesting. Greater risk preference was associated with higher future intentions to boycott and protest, but lower intentions to donate to or volunteer for a campaign. In general, associations between risk preference and political engagement became stronger with higher levels of political interest. Results highlight the importance of considering the adaptive role of adolescent risk preference and suggest that political engagement may be a constructive outlet for youth who pursue or are comfortable taking risks.
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Developmental Assets and Asset-Building Communities examines the relationships of developmental assets to other approaches and bodies of work. It raises challenges about the asset-building approach and offers recommendations for how this approach can be strengthened and broadened in impact and research. In doing so, this book extends the scholarly base for the understanding of the character and scope of the systemic relation between young people's healthy development and the nature of developmentally attentive communities. The chapters in this volume present evidence that asset-building communities both promote and are promoted by positive youth development, a bi-directional, systemic linkage that - consistent with developmental systems theory - further civil society by building relationship and intergenerational places within a community that are united in attending to the developmental needs of children and adolescents.
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Developmental assets: An overview of theory, research, and practice Three theoretical constructs guide an applied research initiative aimed at transforming communities to promote positive human development. First, developmental assets represent a theoretical construct identifying a wide range of environmental and interpersonal strengths known to enhance educational and health outcomes for children and adolescents (Benson, 1990, 1997, 1998, 2006; Benson, Leffert, Scales, & Blyth, 1998; Benson, Scales, Leffert, & Roehlkepartain, 1999). The 40 elements in this framework represent a synthesis of multiple research literatures and are purposefully positioned as health-enhancing resources over which communities have considerable control. Second, asset-building community is an evolving conceptual model describing the nature and dynamics of places and settings that provide a constant and equitable flow of asset-building energy to all children and adolescents (Benson, 1997, 2006; Benson & Leffert, 2001). This vision of developmentally attentive communities describes multiple arenas of asset-building capacity, including individual-level Finally, ...
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