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Keywords:

  • trust;
  • civic engagement;
  • children and adolescents;
  • political socialization

This study identified affective and cognitive factors predicting American 6th, 8th, and 10th graders’ civic orientation, defined here as feelings of effective community service, conceptualizations of citizenship, and participation in student government. Independent variables included measures of interpersonal trust, valuation of religion, and individualistic versus collective action attributions of responsibility for solving social problems. Interpersonal trust predicted four out of the five outcome variables. Individualistic attribution of social responsibility was a predictor of running for student government office, and collective action attribution was a predictor of conceptualizations of citizenship. Religious valuation also predicted conceptualizations of citizenship as well as feelings of effective community service. For the most part, grade level did not play a significant role in predicting youth’s civic orientation. Results are discussed in terms of the literature on social capital and developmental theory.