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Transition of Adolescent Political Action Orientation

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Political socialization-that is, political participation and its development in

childhood, adolescence, and adulthood-is crucial for any democracy. Democracy

depends on and can only develop throught he political participationo f its citizens,

in either conventional or nonconventional political activities. However, "political

ideas-like the consumption of cigarettes and hard liquor-do not suddenly begin

with one's eighteenth birthday" (Niemi, 1973, p. 117). Because the same is true


0162-895X C 2000 InternationaSl ociety of Political Psychology

Published by Blackwell Publishers, 350 Main Street, Maiden, MA 02148, USA, and 108 Cowley Road, Oxford, OX4 IJF, UK.

for political activities and action orientations, we must analyze their developments

and correlates in the life span to obtain empirically founded hints at developmental

risks (i.e., risks of development in the direction of low political interest, political

nonparticipation,a nomie, etc.) as well as empirically based indications for the

promotion of political participation in general and in specific developmental


Two to three decades ago, research on political socialization focused on

childhood and early adolescence, the supposed relevant socialization agents for

these age groups (e.g., parents, teachers, peers, and the impact of the mass media),

the stability versus plasticity of political knowledge, political interests and attitudes,

etc., and the relevance of early political learning for political participation

and attitudes in later years. Cross-sectional and-at best-simple longitudinal

designs (but no cross-sequential designs) as well as frequent selection of variables

with weak theoreticalb ackgrounds( mainlyf oundedo n plausibilityc onsiderations)

predominated.R esults referred,f or example, to the learningo f "attachmento the

nation," to "government and regard for law" in American elementary and secondary

school students (Hess & Tomey, 1970, p. 287), and to the (low) impact of

peers on political



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