Get access

Adolescent Civic and Political Engagement: Associations Between Domain-Specific Judgments and Behavior


  • Aaron Metzger is now at the Institute for Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

  • This research is based in part on the first author’s dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Ph.D. at the University of Rochester. The first author would like to gratefully acknowledge the contributions of his dissertation committee, Judith Smetana (Chair), Patrick Davies, and Peter Wyman.

concerning this article should be addressed to Aaron Metzger, Institute for Health Research and Policy, 1747 West Roosevelt Road, Suite 558, Chicago, IL 60608. Electronic mail may be sent to


Judgments and justifications for different forms of civic involvement and their associations with organized and civic behavior were examined in 312 middle-class primarily White adolescents (M = 17.01 years). Adolescents applied moral, conventional, and personal criteria to distinguish involvement in community service, standard political, social movement, and social gathering activities. Males judged standard political involvement to be more obligatory and important than did females, who judged community service to be more obligatory and important than did males. For each form of civic involvement, greater involvement was associated with more positive judgments and fewer personal justifications. Structural equation modeling indicated that adolescents’ judgments about specific types of civic involvement were associated with similar forms of civic behaviors.