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Abstract

In this article, we take a critical look at the growing interest in U.S. political participation as it exists in the youth civic engagement literature. Our critique draws from principles of liberation and developmental psychology, and from the incisive writings of experts in youth organizing. Youth Organizing evolved from the Positive Youth Development (PYD) and Community Youth Development (CYD) perspectives but its addition of social justice activism is consistent with liberation psychology. The essence of our critique is this: Although there is certainly value in the current civic engagement literature, much of it focuses on the maintenance of social and political institutions rather than on action for social justice. To promote a better balance, and one more relevant to the lives of youth of color and other marginalized young people, we offer a framework for empirical research on youth sociopolitical development. The focus is on the relationship between social analysis (including critical consciousness) and societal involvement that includes the full range of service and political work. Because youth is the focus, we also include a brief discussion of a distinctive challenge that adults face in doing just work with young people—namely, adultism. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Comm Psychol 35: 779–792, 2007.