Abstract: Connecting Civic Engagement with Positive Academic Development in Adolescents (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

12473 Connecting Civic Engagement with Positive Academic Development in Adolescents

Saturday, January 16, 2010: 8:30 AM
Garden Room A (Hyatt Regency)
* noted as presenting author
Inna Altschul, PhD , University of Denver, Assistant Professor, Denver, CO
Nicole Nicotera, PhD , University of Denver, Assistant Professor, Denver, CO

Connections between positive development and civic engagement activities among pre-adolescents have been suggested (Lerner, et al., 2003), but are rarely empirically tested. Understanding the development of civic engagement is of concern for social work practitioners and researchers because it may enhance resilience and promote positive youth development. Empirically connecting civic engagement with positive social development among youth depends on the availability of parsimonious tools for assessing civic engagement in this population. Civic engagement measures exist for older youth, but there is a dearth of research on instruments that are parsimonious and inclusive of pre-adolescent. We present the conceptual basis and statistical assessment of the Pre-Adolescent Civic Engagement Scale (PACES) and examine relationships between the two components of PACES (civic disposition, community connection) and school-oriented beliefs related to academic achievement. Implications for further research on the measure and its use for assessing civic engagement programs are discussed.


The City Year Boston Research-Systematic Learning team developed the survey items (Munoz et al., n.d.) The survey was administered to two samples of pre-adolescents (aged 7-13) across two cities. Exploratory factor analyses using the first sample (n=136) resulted in the identification of three possible models. These models were assessed with Confirmatory Factor Analyses using the second sample (n=151). Analyses were conducted in Mplus 5.1 using maximum likelihood estimation and geomin rotation.

Following the development of the measure, it was administered to a third sample (n=128) of somewhat older youth (aged 12-17) as part of a school-based study of youth leadership development. Linear regression analyses were conduced to examine relationships between civic engagement and youth's school-oriented beliefs (academic self-efficacy, mastery goal orientation, school belonging, and skepticism about the importance of school to one's future) while controlling for youths' age and gender.


Confirmatory factor analyses identified a model of civic engagement with two factors (χ2(43)=48.056, p=.275; CFI=.986; RMSEA=.028). Conceptually, the two factors represent civic disposition (6 items, alpha=.765 and .799) and community connection (5 items, alpha=.711 and .659).

Regression analyses showed that civic disposition is a statistically significant predictor of both academic self-efficacy (B=.327,S.E.=.132) and academic mastery-goal orientation (B=.312,S.E.=.121), while community connection is a statistically significant predictor of school belonging (B=.303,S.E.=.125). Both factors had statistically significant relationships with skepticism about importance of academics, with civic disposition negatively related with skepticism (B=-.342,S.E.=.172), and community connection positively related (B=.368,S.E.=.132). Across all models civic engagement accounted for between eight and seventeen percent of the variance in dependent variables.


PACES is a parsimonious tool for assessing civic engagement and is also related to positive academic development, making it a useful tool for assessing civic engagement interventions. Results linking civic engagement with school-oriented beliefs demonstrate that civic engagement is significantly and positively related to academic development, with each component uniquely related to different types of school-oriented beliefs. Results on skepticism about the importance of schooling suggest complex relationships between civic disposition, community connection and some school-oriented beliefs. These should be addressed in programs designed to increase civic engagement and enhance positive development among low-income youth.