Youth purpose among the “greatest generation”

Jenni Menon Mariano and George E. Vaillant
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Journal of Positive Psychology, 7(4), 281-293. DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2012.686624

The purpose of this study was to examine the links between identity (statuses and processes) and adolescent civic engagement (volunteer and political participation). Participants were 392 Italian high school students (42% males) aged 14–20 years (M age = 16.23 years; SD age = 1.53) who completed a self-report questionnaire. First, using a person-centered approach, we found that achieved adolescents were more involved in volunteer activities, reported higher civic efficacy, and stronger aspirations to contribute to their communities than their diffused counterparts. Second, by means of a variable-centered approach, we demonstrated that the link between identity processes (i.e., commitment and in-depth exploration) and past and future volunteer and political participation was mediated by social responsibility. Implications of the findings for current understanding of the link between adolescent identity formation and civic engagement are discussed and suggestions for future research are outlined.

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