The purpose of this study is to better understand how youth become good citizens. Our project name "The Roots of Engaged Citizenship" embodies our core mission to identify the developmental roots of active participation in communities and society. By "citizen," we are not referring to a legal status, but rather the way young people and their families from all backgrounds think about, and participate, in their communities. Another name for this kind of participation is civic engagement. The Roots of Engaged Citizenship project 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.
This project contributes to science and practice by:
- Identifying actionable steps that parents, schools, and communities can take to encourage character and civic engagement.
- Helping schools and families better understand the value of character education and its association with civic participation.
- Redressing a void in the civic engagement literature, as little research has examined the development of civic values and behaviors in childhood and adolescence or the ways in which families, peers, and schools support this developmental process.
- Developing and testing a theory about the developmental roots of engaged citizenship. Such a theory could positively impact the scientific research on youth development as well as point to ways to apply the knowledge we are gaining.
A unique aspect of this study is that schools from three different geographical locations are participating: Southern California, rural West Virginia, and urban Minnesota. Surveying students and their parents from these three distinct regions is important for helping us know what findings are similar across individuals from diverse areas. We may uncover important differences, too.