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  • Writer's pictureAnn Wrixon

The Impact of Civic Engagement in Adolescence on Adult Outcomes

Ann Wrixon article on foster youth and civic engagement

Ballard, P.J., Hoyt, L.T. & Pachucki, M.C., Impacts of Adolescent and Young Adult Civic Engagement on Health and Socioeconomic Status in Adulthood (2018), Child Development

Kim, J. & Morgul, K, Long-term consequences of youth volunteering: Voluntary versus involuntary service (Sept. 2017). Social Science Research, Vol. 67, pp. 160-175

These research studies looked at the impact of civic engagement in adolescence on adult physical and mental health, educational attainment, and socio-economic status. Both research studies used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health.

The Ballard, Hoyt & Pachucki research examined three types of civic engagement: voting, volunteering, and activism. They found that voting and volunteering were associated with higher educational attainment and income in adulthood and fewer risky health behaviors and depressive symptoms. In addition, there was no association with metabolic risk and voting and volunteering. Although activism was associated with higher educational attainment and income in adulthood, there was an increase in risky health behaviors, and no association with metabolic risk or depressive symptoms.

According to Kim & Morgul “our findings indicate that the psychological benefits of youth volunteering accrue only to voluntary participants, whereas both voluntary and involuntary youth service are positively associated with educational attainment and earnings in young adulthood.”

These studies suggest that civic engagement, particularly voting and volunteering, in adolescence could be an important protective factor for physical and mental health, as well as leading to higher educational attainment and socio-economic status as an adult. This research may give more detail to the research discussed in an earlier blog about mitigating factors for Adverse Childhood Events (ACES)—see: How to Mitigate Adverse Childhood Experiences. Although research would need to be done, it may be that voting and volunteering in adolescence are mitigating factors for those children and youth, particularly in foster care, who have experienced three or more ACEs.

To read the abstracts of these articles go to:

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