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What makes young people thrive in civics in the US and Europe?

Publication Authors: 
Kirsi Tirri (Chair & Presenter) with Indrawati Liauw (Presenter) and Heather Malin
Publication Year: 

The purpose of this symposium is to discuss the motivations for young people to get involved in civics in the US and Europe. We know from the earlier research that majority of both American and European youth do not intend to participate in conventional political activities such as joining a political party, writing letters to newspapers, or being a candidate for a local office. Nevertheless, more students are willing to become engaged in other forms of civic life such as collecting money for a social cause or charity, and they believe it is important for adult citizens to participate in community and environmental groups (Torney-Purta, 2002). Young people may have moral, conventional and personal reasons for their civic and political engagement. Males are known to view the standard political involvement more obligatory and important than females who on the other hand view community service as more obligatory and important than males (Metzger & Smetana, 2009). In this symposium we try to deepen our knowledge on the motivations that make young people thrive in different forms of civic engagement in the US and Europe. We will explore the motivations, moral orientations and gender differences of young people from the US and Europe and reflect on these findings in their cultural contexts. We also discuss the importance of building cross-culturally valid measuring instruments that can be used in civic studies. Moreover, we discuss the important role of schools in promoting civic engagement among adolescents.


  • Isolde de Groot and Wiel Veugelers
    "Cultivating democratic engagement among in Dutch students: Lessons from the Netherlands"
  • Judith Torney-Purta & Carolyn Barber
    "The Civic Attitudes of Adolescents in Fourteen European Countries:
    Cross-Cohort Shifts from 1999-2009"
  • Heather Malin, Kirsi Tirri and Indrawati Liauw:
    "Gender variation in moral orientations related to civic engagement: A case study of American immigrant youth"
    In this paper we present a case study of American high school seniors (N=1578) from seven public schools in three different regions of California. The schools were selected for diversity of ethnic groups, immigrant status, and socioeconomic status. The study used a mixed method design. First, the students took the civic engagement survey to reveal the general trends in their civic intentions and engagement. After that 50 of the students were interviewed. In this paper we study the gender variance in civic intentions and engagement utilizing regression analyses. Furthermore, we use the interview data to explore the differences in moral orientations during adolescence and how they might impact their civic engagement development. We use a civic purpose framework, which integrates the moral dimensions of civic engagement with civic activity and commitment (Damon, Menon, & Bronk, 2003).