Abstract: Identity and Socio-Political Development: Exploring Levels and Roles of Identity in Critical Education, Participation and Social Action in Youth Work (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

654P Identity and Socio-Political Development: Exploring Levels and Roles of Identity in Critical Education, Participation and Social Action in Youth Work

Sunday, January 19, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Angela Malorni, MPA, Doctoral Student, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Background/Purpose: Sociopolitical development (SPD) is an emerging set of theories by which knowledge, skills and capacity for social and political action are acquired. Learning more about SPD during adolescence is important because this is a time when many develop their abstract moral and cognitive reasoning, build skills crucial for perspective-taking, self-reflection, sense of responsibility to others and develop their belief system.SPD pulls from empowerment theory, emancipatory scholarship and critical pedagogy, including Paulo Freire’s theory of “conscientization” and praxis.  As such, two core components of SPD are generally agreed upon: critical reflection and critical action, however Freire did not offer a conceptual model for how these components relate with one another; and SPD scholars have offered a number of different interpretations, each having their own unique practice and pedagogy implications for work with youth.

Methods:This paper addressed some of this lack of conceptual clarity by conducting a scoping reviewing the existing models of SPD. This included literature across education, social work and psychology. Emerging theories of SPD, critical consciousness and “conscientization” were all considered.

Results:Four models of socio-political development were identified. Between these models, a number of conceptual tensions were illuminated, including conflicting definitions of ‘critical reflection’ and ‘critical action’, a debate on the presence and absence of intermediary factors between reflection and action, and the open question of whether reflection precedes action, or visa versa. In response, I offer a conceptual model for SPD that is anchored in a multi-level, ecological model of identity that includes individual, interpersonal and group-level sub-constructs. Identity has a number of different meanings and uses, many of which pose artificial distinctions between the personal, relational and collective sense of self. To offer a more integrated understanding of each SPD sub-construct, I use the framework offered by Marilynn Brewer and Wendi Gardner of: (1) personal identity, (2) relational identity and (3) collective identity.

This model is situated in a cyclical and iterative structure that takes the relationship between reflection and action into account. Critical Reflection is understood as (1) efficacy, (2) commitment, (3) values, (4) analysis and (5) awareness. Each is defined at individual, relational and collective levels. Critical Action is understood at the individual level as transformation of self, individual action and psychological resilience. At the relational level it includes participation/non-participation, membership & belonging and intergroup dialogue. At the collective level, it is understood as mass action, policy advocacy, education & consciousness raising and epistemological interventions.

Conclusion/Implication:This model allows us to better explore and understand the mechanisms and outcomes of SPD, which can lead to more effectiveness youth work interventions. By defining and contextualizing the relationship of identity to SPD, especially a multi-level relationship, we can better understand the subject, mechanisms and outcomes of SPD. By clarifying the core mechanisms and outcomes of SPD, we can better design and assess interventions that support the personal, relational and collective aspects of social and political development. Future directions for theory development and research are also suggested.