Most teenagers are too young to vote and are off the radar of political scientists. Teenage Citizens looks beyond the electoral game to consider the question of how this overlooked segment of our citizenry understands political topics. Bridging psychology and political science, Constance Flanagan argues that civic identities form during adolescence and are rooted in teens’ everyday lives—in their experiences as members of schools and community-based organizations and in their exercise of voice, collective action, and responsibility in those settings. This is the phase of life when political ideas are born.
Through voices from a wide range of social classes and ethnic backgrounds in the United States and five other countries, we learn how teenagers form ideas about democracy, inequality, laws, ethnic identity, the social contract, and the ties that bind members of a polity together. Flanagan’s twenty-five years of research show how teens’ personal and family values accord with their political views. When their families emphasize social responsibility—for people in need and for the common good—and perform service to the community, teens’ ideas about democracy and the social contract highlight principles of tolerance, social inclusion, and equality. When families discount social responsibility relative to other values, teens’ ideas about democracy focus on their rights as individuals.
At a time when opportunities for youth are shrinking, Constance Flanagan helps us understand how young people come to envisage the world of politics and civic engagement, and how their own political identities take form.
Teenage Citizens is an important contribution to what has traditionally been called political socialization—the study of how the beliefs and values of a polity are passed to the next generation… The book is exceptionally clear and well written and accessible.
In these politically unsettled times, when economic opportunities for youth appear to be shrinking everywhere, understanding how young people view the world of politics and civic engagement is critical. Flanagan’s expertise in both developmental science and political theory makes this book a unique contribution to our understanding of these important issues.
Teenage Citizens is the most ambitious and original contribution to political socialization in years. In its rich depictions of adolescents from several decades, countries, and socioeconomic backgrounds, it is an important contribution to political science, psychology, and policy.
Teenage Citizens is a tour de force. Taking a broad international view, it explores how ideas germane to citizenship such as democracy, loyalty, trust, and politics are learned. What does it mean to youths to be citizens of their country, and how do their views depend on their circumstances? Flanagan does what every successful scholar should do: she summarizes her life’s work, explains the contribution of each study, and shows how the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
- 2014, Winner of the SRA Social Policy Publication Awards
- Harvard University Press
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