From Adolescent Connections to Social Capital: Predictors of Civic Engagement in Young Adulthood

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Purpose: This study examined the ability of adolescent connection in family and community contexts to promote an aspect of healthy youth development and transition into adulthood, civic engagement. Methods: Data are from Wave 1 (1995) and Wave 3 (2001-2002) of the in-home interviews from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. The sample for this study included 9130 young adults aged 18-26 years. Linear and logistic regression models were used to measure the influence of connection in family and community contexts (Wave 1) on outcomes of civic engagement in young adulthood (Wave 3). Results: Stronger connection in all family and community contexts during adolescence predicted greater likelihood of voting, community volunteer service, involvement in social action/solidarity groups, education groups, and/or conservation groups, and endorsement of civic trust in young adulthood. Select connections in family and community contexts were also significant predictors of political voice/involvement and blood product donation. In a final multivariate model, frequency of shared activities with parent(s) and school connection during adolescence emerged as unique predictors of young adult civic engagement. Conclusions: Connections in family and community contexts during adolescence promote healthy youth development through facilitation of multiple aspects of civic engagement in young adulthood. The importance of these connections in fostering youth capacity to bond to a broader community construct is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-168
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This journal article was supported in part by the Adolescent Health Protection Program (School of Nursing, University of Minnesota) grant number T01-DP000112 (PI: Bearinger) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the CDC.

Funding Information:
This research uses data from Add Health, a program project designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris, and funded by a grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 17 other agencies. Special acknowledgment is due Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Persons interested in obtaining data files from Add Health should contact Add Health, Carolina Population Center, 123 W. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516-2524 ( ). No direct support was received from grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis.


  • Civic engagement
  • Connection
  • Healthy youth development
  • Promotion
  • Protection
  • Young adulthood


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