Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 105–133 | Cite as

The growth of political ideas and their expression among young activists

  • William C. Crain
  • Ellen F. Crain


Two studies were conducted. In the first, developmental information was gathered on young people's efforts to construct and elaborate on an ideal society. The subjects were 54 white middle-class boys, equally divided among 8−, 11−, and 16-year-olds. The interview protocols suggested a typology consisting of (1) a personalistic, nongovernmental construction of society, based on the child's own life space, with a concern for biological needs such as food and shelter; (2) a construction of specific but unrelated governmental institutions; (3) a better-organized conception of how institutions are interrelated; (4) a commitment to abstract principles. In the second investigation, the task and typology were applied to the study of high school left-wing activists and nonactivists −93 in all. The activists were not clearly more committed to abstract principles, although they were entertaining utopian possibilities of a society with few laws. But the surprising finding was the activists' resemblance to the youngest children (type I); they too constructed a personalistic society potentially within their own life space and were concerned with biological life-supportive issues.


High School Young Child Young People Health Psychology School Psychology 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1974

Authors and Affiliations

  • William C. Crain
    • 1
  • Ellen F. Crain
  1. 1.Department of Psychologythe City College of the City University ofNew York

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