Date of Award

8-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

International Family and Community Studies

Advisor

Small, Mark A

Committee Member

Heidmets , Mati

Committee Member

Kimbrough-Melton , Robin J

Committee Member

Melton , Gary B

Committee Member

McDonell , James R

Abstract

Democratic citizen orientation - support for democratic principles and values - appears an important ingredient in making democracies work. However, there is no agreement as to what attitudes and behaviors make up a democratic citizen orientation. The main goals of this dissertation are to: (1) identify and describe factors that characterize adolescents' democratic orientation, (2) explore cross-cultural variation in democratic orientations among adolescents in established and aspiring democracies, (3) investigate the relationship between adolescents' democratic orientations and historical legacies of their countries, (4) investigate the relationship between adolescents' democratic orientations and the current quality of democratic institutions, and (5) analyze the implications of democratic orientations among adolescents for their expected involvement in future political and social activities.
This dissertation addresses these goals through quantitative analyses of data from the International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS, 2009) and the Quality of Democracy Index (2008-2009). Results from this dissertation reveal that democratic orientation does not form a homogenous democratic mindset. Rather, a pro-democratic orientation contains a multidimensional pattern of democratic attitudes, with three distinct aspects consistently present in all analyzed societies. Analyses of the role of historic legacies show that in their democratic orientations, adolescents are still largely influenced by previous regimes of their respective societies. Thus, it was found that countries with a history of democratic traditions tend to have a higher proportion of democratically-oriented adolescents in comparison with countries with a history of communism. However, the results are mixed in terms of specific factors that compose adolescents' democratic orientation. On average, students in countries with a history of democratic tradition show a greater endorsement of civil liberties values than students from countries with a history of communism. Similarly, higher trust levels are observed among adolescents in established democracies than among their peers in aspiring democracies. At the same time, when compared with adolescents in established democracies, students from aspiring democracies are more likely to have higher scores on the measure of engagement potential.
Additional results show a strong relationship between adolescents' democratic orientation and the quality of democratic institutions in their countries. Specifically, a positive relationship was established between the quality of democratic institutions and adolescents' endorsement of civil liberties values and trust levels. Alternatively, a negative association was documented between adolescents' engagement potential and the quality of democratic institutions. Comparisons of the relative contributions of historical legacy and the quality of democratic orientations produced mixed results. Although historical legacy was found to be more important in determining the trust aspect of adolescents' democratic orientations, two other aspects, civil liberties and engagement potential, were found to be influenced more by the quality of current democratic institutions than by historical legacy. Finally, specific aspects of a democratic orientation appear important factors in explaining variation in adolescents' expectations for future participation in social and political activities.
Overall, this descriptive, comparative, and analytical study affirms the importance of adolescents' pro-democratic orientation for democratic prospects of individual countries and whole regions. In addition, results support earlier claims that at the level of public beliefs and orientations, democracy has taken root in most transitioning societies. A better understanding of adolescents' democratic orientations should help inform policies that seek to promote a culture of democracy and respect for democratic values.

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