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Adolescent moral motivations for civic engagement: Clues to the political gender gap?

Publication Authors: 
Heather Malin, Kirsi Tirri, Indra Liauw
Publication Year: 
Publication Journal: 
Journal of Moral Education 44(1), 34-50. DOI: 10.1080/03057240.2015.1014324

This study explored gender differences in moral motivations and civic engagement among adolescents to add to existing explanations for the gender gap in political engagement in the United States. We examined moral motivations for civic engagement in a sample of 1,578 high school seniors, using a mixed-methods analysis of survey and interview data. Multiple regression confirmed that girls were more civically involved, and expressed greater future civic intention. However, analysis of motivations suggested that differences in moral motivations might impact ongoing political development, as girls were more likely to take political action out of desire to help, while boys were more often motivated to act on values. Case studies of two interviewees—one male and one female—were analyzed to examine how civic commitment emerges in the interaction of desire to help, to act on civic values, and another moral motivation that emerged in the qualitative analysis—to empower others.