Acta Politica

, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 92–116 | Cite as

Homemade citizens: The development of political interest during adolescence and young adulthood

  • Anja NeundorfEmail author
  • Kaat Smets
  • Gema M García-Albacete
Original Article


Despite being among the most important indicators of political participation, relatively little is known about the origins and the development of political interest over the lifespan. The formative years between childhood and adulthood are generally considered a crucial phase in which future electors form and strengthen political habits. The aim of this research is to better understand this important stage by examining the way in which parental socialization and life-cycle events affect the formation and growth of political interest during adolescence and young adulthood. While parental influences are expected to take place during childhood and persist over-time, life-cycle events are considered to influence development in early adulthood for those adolescents who did not grow up in a highly politicized environment. We assess these assumptions by applying latent growth curve modeling and using the German Socio-Economic Panel, which spans from 1984 to 2007. Our findings confirm strong parental socialization effects on interest levels during teenage years. While life-cycle events are not found to strongly affect the development of political interest during the formative years, the transition to adulthood is indeed a more critical period for those individuals who did not acquire high levels of interest from their family.


political interest young adulthood parental socialization life-cycle events latent growth curve analysis panel data 



All authors contributed equally. We thank Richard Niemi, Jan van Deth, Daniel Stegmueller, Peter Schmidt and Mark Franklin for useful comments on an earlier draft of this article.


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anja Neundorf
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kaat Smets
    • 2
  • Gema M García-Albacete
    • 3
  1. 1.Nuffield College, University of OxfordOxfordUK
  2. 2.Centre for the Study of Political Change (CIRCaP), University of SienaSienaItaly
  3. 3.Department of Social ScienceUniversity of MannheimMannheimGermany

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