Motivated to Make a Difference: Understanding Adolescents' Civic Engagement Using Self-Determination Theory

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University of Alabama Libraries

Civic engagement is a powerful tool that can empower youth to make positive change in their community. An important step in understanding youth’s civic participation involves considering the underlying motivational process that prompts them to action. Past research has delved into some of the individual processes that are linked to youth civic engagement, yet they often lack a broader, more fulfilling picture of motivation. This study builds off previous research by examining some of the interpersonal and intrapersonal factors that influence youth civic engagement, but it also provides a novel picture by examining engagement through the motivational processes outlined in the Self-Determination Theory (SDT). Specifically, this study examined a moderated mediational model through which youth civic engagement could be predicted by the fulfillment of basic needs outlined by SDT. Furthermore, I expected this relationship to be mediated by youth civic competence and the mediational pathways to be moderated by parental civic engagement. Findings indicated that there was a significant conditional indirect effect of basic needs satisfaction on youth civic engagement through civic competence at medium and high levels of parental civic engagement. However, basic needs satisfaction did not directly predict youth civic engagement, nor did parental civic engagement significantly moderate the link between needs satisfaction and civic competence. This study provides a unique look at the interplay of factors that influence youth prosocial motivation as well as the possible implications of these findings.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
adolescence, civic competence, civic engagement, COVID-19, Self-Determination Theory