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Institute of Education

Biographical Experiences and Political Engagement in Adolescence

Political interest and commitment are significantly shaped during adolescence, so that the course for political action in adulthood is essentially set during this developmental phase. However, too little is still known about how these developmental processes take place and what conditions and experiences they are linked to.
In our project, both the processes of latent political socialization beginning in childhood and the conscious development of political (dis)interest and engagement since adolescence are thoroughly investigated. Young people are included who are first interviewed as 16- to 17-year-olds, i.e., shortly before reaching the age of legal majority, and then again two years later. In this way, trajectories of political socialization can be recorded at different points in time during an important phase – once before reaching the age of majority and once after reaching the age at which they are eligible to vote.
The study will include young people of different genders, as it is known that political interest and involvement in adolescence differ according to gender. One part of the study group will have a migration background in order to be able to take into account the special conditions of growing up in this context and the lack of prospects of early voting rights in the case of foreign citizenship. The study will include people who are politically active in various ways as well as those who are not recognizably politically active or who are skeptical about politics in order to be able to examine the development of various forms of political activity. The adolescents will be interviewed in detailed qualitative interviews in which they will have the opportunity to explain and contextualize their biography, their political understanding, and their political commitment.
In this way, we will primarily investigate a) the biographical relevance of experiences in different social contexts for the development of political (dis)interest and political commitment, b) the extent to which different social categories of difference are associated with specific conditions, developments, and experiences, and c) the extent to which a longitudinal comparison reveals stabilizations and changes with regard to the development of political (dis)interest and commitment.
The research project is financially supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF).