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Children and Politics: An Empirical Reassessment of Early Political Socialization



Demands for the inclusion of children, the youngest citizens, in democratic decision making are increasing. Although there is an abundance of empirical research on the political orientations of adolescents, there is a paucity of research on younger children's orientations. Our panel study of more than 700 children in their first year of primary school shows that these young children already exhibit consistent, structured political orientations. We examine the distribution and development of political knowledge, issue orientations, and notions of good citizenship. We find achievement differences between subgroups at the beginning of the school year, and these differences do not disappear. Children from ethnic minorities and lower socioeconomic residence areas show relatively less developed political orientations, and they do not improve as much over the school year as other children. Furthermore, normative political orientations and cognitive orientations differ in their development.