Age and Gender Differences in Civic Beliefs
In previous research (Metzger & Smetana, 2009), we have examined youth's understanding of different form of civic behavior by having them judge how wrong it is NOT to participate in different civic activities (obligatoriness) and how much they respect (social praise) people that engage in different civic activities. In general, we found that judge community service (e.g., volunteering) to be highly obligatory and worthy of greater social praise. Standard political involvement (e.g., voting, keeping up with current events) was viewed as highly obligatory, but worthy of less social praise. Social movement and community gathering were viewed as less obligatory and worthy of little social praise (Metzger & Smetana, 2009; click for the article!). Furthermore, older teens view community service as worthy of more respect and standard political involvement as more obligatory. Additionally, girls view community service and community gathering activities to be more obligatory than boys (Metzger & Ferris, 2013).
Sociopolitical Values and Civic Beliefs
We are also exploring how other belief systems, such as views toward patriotism, authority, and specific political issues influence youths’ judgments concerning civic obligation. Some youth develop patriotic and authoritarian beliefs before they are exposed to the civic world, and they may use these beliefs to guide their judgments about which civic activities are obligatory and worthy of social respect. In fact, in a study conducted by Metzger, Oosterhoff, Palmer, and Ferris, (2014), we found that authoritarian, spiritual, and patriotic values are linked with teens' beliefs about civic duty. Additionally, we found age differences in the strengths of these associations.
Parents and Civic Beliefs
Parents are also thought to influence the ways their teenagers think about civic duty through modeling civic behavior and talking about citizenship. A lot of research has shown that parents that frequently talk about politics and current events have teenagers that are more involved in civic activities. However, not much is known about what parents say when they talk about civic duty. To answer this question, our lab video-recorded actual parent-adolescent conversations about civic duty (see Family Communication Study) and coded them for a variety of different activities. We found that both parents and teens mention a wide variety of civic duties in their conversations. Some of these messages included participating in community service and political activities. However, the majority of families mentioned other citizenship expectations, including obeying laws, being productive (working, becoming educated), being respectful, loyal, and courteous (Oosterhoff, Metzger, & Babskie, accepted). Furthermore, in a follow-up study, we found that the specific messages parents and teens communicated to one another were associated with adolescents' beliefs about different types of civic duty (Oosterhoff & Metzger, under review).