Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 47, Issue 8, pp 1663–1683 | Cite as

The Intersection of Emotional and Sociocognitive Competencies with Civic Engagement in Middle Childhood and Adolescence

  • Aaron MetzgerEmail author
  • Lauren M. Alvis
  • Benjamin Oosterhoff
  • Elizabeth Babskie
  • Amy Syvertsen
  • Laura Wray-Lake
Empirical Research


Civic developmental theory anticipates connections between normative developmental competencies and civic engagement, but little previous research has directly studied such links. The current study sought to contribute to civic development theory by examining associations between emotional and sociocognitive competencies (empathy, emotion regulation, prosocial moral reasoning, future-orientation) and civic engagement (volunteering, informal helping, political behaviors and beliefs, environmental behaviors, social responsibility values, civic skills). Data came from a geographically and racially diverse sample of 2467 youth (Mage = 13.4, Range: 8–20 years, 56% female). The results indicated that empathy and future-orientation significantly predicted nearly all forms of civic engagement, whereas emotion regulation and prosocial moral reasoning were uniquely associated with specific forms of civic engagement. Exploratory multi-group models indicated that empathy and emotion regulation were more strongly associated with civic engagement among younger youth and prosocial moral reasoning and future-orientation were more strongly related to civic engagement among older youth. The findings help to advance developmental theory of youth civic engagement.


Civic engagement Political participation Positive youth development Prosocial behavior Developmental theory 


Authors' Contributions

A.M. conceived of the study, participated in its design and drafted the manuscript; L.A. helped to draft the manuscript, participated in acquisition of the data, performed statistical analyses and interpretation of the data; B.O. participated in acquisition of the data, performed statistical analyses and interpretation of the data, and helped draft the results; E.B. performed statistical analyses and participated in the conception of the study; A.S. and L.W.L. participated in the design and coordination of the study and were involved in revising the manuscript for critically important intellectual content. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


This work was funded by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation and the National Science Foundation. The opinions expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the values of these organizations.

Data Sharing Declaration

The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are not publicly available but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

10964_2018_842_MOESM1_ESM.docx (22 kb)
Supplementary Information(DOCX 22 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aaron Metzger
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lauren M. Alvis
    • 1
  • Benjamin Oosterhoff
    • 2
  • Elizabeth Babskie
    • 1
  • Amy Syvertsen
    • 3
  • Laura Wray-Lake
    • 4
  1. 1.West Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA
  2. 2.Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children’s HospitalHoustonUSA
  3. 3.Search InstituteMinneapolisUSA
  4. 4.University of California at Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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