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Exploring the Predictors of Civic Engagement in Identity-Diverse Youth


Existing work on youth civic engagement posits that civic involvement is beneficial for all youth who engage in it. More recent work has focused on articulating and measuring civic engagement as multidimensional, comprising of both civically and politically related behaviors as well as intentions by youth. Taking a multidimensional approach (i.e., measuring civic engagement as behaviors and intentions separately), the current dissertation aimed to add to the existing literature on youth engagement by longitudinally examining engagement among identity-diverse urban youth. Relying on survey data from a large longitudinal school-based study of ethnically diverse adolescents from California who participated in high school to one year post high school (2013-2019), this dissertation explored predictors of engagement across three studies. The first paper presents a multilevel analysis of the change in engagement over the four years of high school, descriptively finding gender, race/ethnicity, and subjective social status differences among behaviors and intentions of young people. The second paper explored the longitudinal relationship between perceived racial/ethnic self- and group- mistreatment and civic behaviors over the first three years of high school. Using cross-lagged path analysis, it was found that perceiving group-based mistreatment predicted higher engagement during the subsequent year in high school, suggesting that perceiving mistreatment may be a communal predictor of civic engagement among urban, ethnically diverse youth. Finally, an exploration of a cataclysmic national event – that is, the 2016 U.S. Presidential election – was conducted in the third paper as a potential predictor of civic engagement among three age groups of youth. Results from the third study found that engagement declined for all youth, especially the oldest participants, at the second time point after the election compared to before the election. Taken together, this three- study dissertation highlights the importance of exploring personal as well as communal predictors of civic engagement through multiple indicators such as behaviors undertaken by youth along with their intentions for future civic-related actions. The findings advance our understanding of how youth are propelled to become civically involved throughout late adolescence.

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