Skip to main content

Engagement in School and Community Civic Activities Among Rural Adolescents

Abstract

Involvement in civic and community activities is a core part of positive youth development. Adolescents involved in voluntary civic activities have greater academic engagement, enhanced well-being, less involvement in problem behaviors, and they are more likely to value connections to their community than those who are not involved. The current research examined involvement in school and community civic activities as well as religious youth groups among 8th and 9th graders (N = 679, 61.7% female, 85.9% White) from small, rural schools in the Midwest U.S. and linked involvement to religiosity, well-being, problem behavior, academic engagement, and perceptions of parents and peers. Half of the adolescents in the sample reported involvement in civic activities or, more commonly, in religious youth groups. Adolescents who participated in religious youth groups reported more extracurriculars, less problem behavior, higher grades and motivation, and more support from parents and friends than adolescents who did not. The most frequently reported school civic activities were student council and Future Farmers of America, and 4-H was the most popular community civic activity. Those who were involved in school- and community-based civic activities reported more religiosity, academic engagement, and positive perceptions of parents and peers than uninvolved youth. The results support and extend research on rural youth by documenting civic activities across contexts and examining how involvement is associated with positive youth development.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Bronfenbrenner, U. (2005). Making human beings human: Bioecological perspectives on human development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bryant, A. L., Schulenberg, J. E., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Johnston, L. D. (2003). How academic achievement, attitudes, and behaviors relate to the course of substance use during adolescence: A 6-year, multiwave national longitudinal study. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 13(3), 361–397.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bryant, A. L., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2002). Examining the effects of academic beliefs and behaviors on changes in substance use among urban adolescents. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94(3), 621–637.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Busseri, M. A., Rose-Krasnor, L., Willoughby, T., & Chalmers, H. (2006). A longitudinal examination of breadth and intensity of youth activity involvement and successful development. Developmental Psychology, 42(6), 1313–1326.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Derogratis, L. R., & Spencer, P. M. (1982). The brief symptom inventory (BSI): Administration and scoring procedures. Baltimore: Division of Medical Psychology, John Hopkins University School of Medicine.

    Google Scholar 

  • Duncan, S. C., Duncan, T. E., Strycker, L. A., & Chaumeton, N. R. (2002). Relations between youth antisocial and prosocial activities. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 25, 425–438.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Eccles, J. S. (1993). Middle school family survey study. Boulder: University of Colorado.

    Google Scholar 

  • Eccles, J. S. (2005). The present and future of research on activity settings as developmental contexts. In J. L. Mahoney, R. W. Larson, & J. S. Eccles (Eds.), Organized activities as contexts of development: Extracurricular activities, after-school and community programs (pp. 353–371). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Google Scholar 

  • Eccles, J. S., & Barber, B. (1999). Student council, volunteering, basketball, or marching band: What kind of extracurricular involvement matters? Journal of Adolescent Research, 14, 10–43.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Elder, G. H., & Conger, R. D. (2000). Children of the land: Adversity and success in rural America. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Flanagan, C. A. (2004). Volunteerism, leadership, political socialization, and civic engagement. In R. M. Lerner & L. Steinberg (Eds.), Handbook of adolescent psychology (2nd ed., pp. 721–745). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Flanagan, C. A., Bowes, J. M., Jonsson, B., Csapo, B., & Sheblanova, E. (1998). Ties that bind: Correlates of adolescents’ civic commitments in seven countries. Journal of Social Issues, 54(3), 457–475.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Flanagan, C. A., Cumsille, P., Gill, S., & Gallay, L. S. (2007). School and community climates and civic commitments: Patterns for ethnic minority and majority students. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99(2), 421–431.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fredricks, J. A., & Eccles, J. S. (2006). Is extracurricular participation associated with beneficial outcomes? Concurrent and longitudinal relations. Developmental Psychology, 42, 698–713.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hansen, D. M., Larson, R. W., & Dworkin, J. B. (2003). What adolescents learn in organized youth activities: A survey of self-reported developmental experiences. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 13(1), 25–55.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hardy, S. A., & Carlo, G. (2005). Religiosity and prosocial behaviours in adolescence: The mediating role of prosocial values. Journal of Moral Education, 34(2), 231–249.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hart, D., & Atkins, R. (2004). Religious participation and the development of moral identity in adolescence. In T. Thorkildsen & H. J. Walberg’s (Eds.), Nurturing morality (pp. 157–172). New York, NY: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hart, D., Atkins, R., & Donnelly, T. M. (2006). Community service and moral development. In M. Killen & J. G. Smetana’s (Eds.), Handbook of moral development (pp. 633–656). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hart, D., Donnelly, T. M., Youniss, J., & Atkins, R. (2007). High school community service as a predictor of adult voting and volunteering. American Educational Research Journal, 44(1), 197–219.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Harter, S. (1982). The perceived competence scale for children. Child Development, 53, 87–97.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hirschi, T. (1969). Causes of delinquency. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Huberty, C. J., & Morris, J. D. (1989). Multivariate analysis versus multiple univariate analyses. Psychological Bulletin, 105(2), 302–308.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Huebner, A. J., & Mancini, J. A. (2003). Shaping structured out-of-school time use among youth: The effects of self, family, and friend systems. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 32(6), 453–463.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Janoski, T., Musick, M., & Wilson, J. (1998). Being volunteered? The impact of social participation and pro-social attitudes on volunteering. Sociological Forum, 13(3), 495–519.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jensen, L. A. (2008). Immigrants’ cultural identities as sources of civic engagement. Applied Developmental Science, 12(2), 74–83.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Johnson, M. K., Beebe, T., Mortimer, J. T., & Snyder, M. (1998). Volunteerism in adolescence: A process perspective. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 8(3), 309–332.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2006). Monitoring the future national survey results on drug use, 1975–2005. Volume I: Secondary school students. Bethesda, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kaplan, M. (1997). The benefits of intergenerational community service projects: Implications for promoting intergenerational unity, community activism, and cultural continuity. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 28(3), 211–228.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kerestes, M., Youniss, J., & Metz, E. (2004). Longitudinal patterns of religious perspective and civic integration. Applied Developmental Science, 8(1), 39–46.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • King, V., Elder, G. H., & Whitbeck, L. B. (1997). Religious involvement among rural youth: An ecological and life-course perspective. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 7, 431–456.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Larson, R. (2000). Toward a psychology of positive youth development. American Psychologist, 55(1), 170–183.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Linver, M. R., Roth, J. L., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2009). Patterns of adolescents’ participation in organized activities: Are sports best when combined with other activities? Developmental Psychology, 45(2), 354–367.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Linville, D. C., & Huebner, A. J. (2005). The analysis of extracurricular activities and their relationship to youth violence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 34(5), 483–492.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ludden, A. B., & Eccles, J. S. (2007). Psychosocial, motivational, and contextual profiles of youth reporting different patterns of substance use during a dolescence. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 17(1), 51–88.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mahoney, J. L., Larson, R. W., Eccles, J. S., & Lord, H. (2005). Organized activities as development contexts for children and adolescents. In J. L. Mahoney, R. W. Larson, & J. S. Eccles (Eds.), Organized activities as contexts of development: Extracurricular activities, after-school and community programs (pp. 3–22). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Google Scholar 

  • Markstrom, C. A., Li, X., Blackshire, S. L., & Wilfong, J. J. (2005). Ego strength development of adolescents involved in adult-sponsored structured activities. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 34(2), 85–95.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McGuire, J. K., & Gamble, W. C. (2006). Community service for youth: The value of psychological engagement over number of hours spent. Journal of Adolescence, 29(2), 289–298.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Milot, A. S., & Ludden, A. B. (2009). The effects of religion and gender on well-being, substance use, and academic engagement among rural adolescents. Youth and Society, 40, 311–335.

    Google Scholar 

  • Olson, C. L. (1979). Practical considerations in choosing a MANOVA test statistic: A rejoinder to Stevens. Psychological Bulletin, 86(6), 1350–1352.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pedersen, S., & Seidman, E. (2005). Contexts and correlates of out-of-school activity participation among low-income urban adolescents. In J. L. Mahoney, R. W. Larson, & J. S. Eccles (Eds.), Organized activities as contexts of development: Extracurricular activities, after-school and community programs (pp. 85–109). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Google Scholar 

  • Procidano, M. E., & Heller, K. (1983). Measures of perceived social support from friends and family: Three validation studies. American Journal of Community Psychology, 11, 1–24.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schulenberg, J., Bryant, A., & O’Malley, P. (2004). Taking hold of some kind of life: How developmental tasks relate to trajectories of well-being during the transition to adulthood. Development and Psychopathology, 16(4), 1119–1140.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Sherrod, L. R., & Spiewak, G. S. (2008). Possible interrelationships between civic engagement, positive youth development, and spirituality/religiosity. In R. M. Lerner, R. W. Roeser, & E. Phelps (Eds.), Positive youth development and spirituality: From theory to research (pp. 322–338). West Conshohocken, PA, US: Templeton Foundation Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Simpkins, S. D., Eccles, J. S., & Becnel, J. N. (2008). The mediational role of adolescents’ friends in relations between activity breadth and adjustment. Developmental Psychology, 44, 1081–1094.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smith, C., & Denton, M. L. (2005). Soul searching: The religious and spiritual lives of American teenagers. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Spoth, R., & Redmond, C. (1996). Illustrating a framework for rural prevention research. In R. D. Peters & R. J. McMahon (Eds.), Preventing childhood disorders, substance abuse, and delinquency (pp. 299–328). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stewart, A., & McDermott, C. (2004). Civic engagement, political identity, and generation in developmental context. Research in Human Development, 1(3), 189–203.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vieno, A., Nation, M., Perkins, D., & Santinello, M. (2007). Civic participation and the development of adolescent behavior problems. Journal of Community Psychology, 35, 761–777.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wallace, J. M., Jr., Forman, T. A., Caldwell, C. H., & Willis, D. S. (2003). Religion and U.S. secondary school students: Current patterns, recent trends, and sociodemographic correlates. Youth & Society, 35(1), 98–125.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Yates, M., & Youniss, J. (1996). A developmental perspective on community service in adolescence. Social Development, 5(1), 85–111.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Youniss, J., McLellan, J., & Yates, M. (1997). What we know about engendering civic identity. American Behavioral Scientist, 40(5), 620–631.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

This research was made possible through grants from the Spencer Foundation (Small Grant #200300040), University of Missouri, and Oak Ridge Associated Universities.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Alison Bryant Ludden.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ludden, A.B. Engagement in School and Community Civic Activities Among Rural Adolescents. J Youth Adolescence 40, 1254–1270 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-010-9536-3

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-010-9536-3

Keywords

  • Civic engagement
  • Rural adolescents
  • 4-H
  • Future Farmers of America
  • Extracurricular activities