Human Rights Attitude and Civic Engagement Behavior Among University Students

Abstract

Although civic engagement and human rights are critical values in social work education, few empirical studies have explored the association between civic engagement and human rights exposure and attitudes. This study aims to examine the relationship between the exposure to human rights information, human rights attitudes, normative beliefs, and civic engagement behaviors among university students. A total of 214 students at a public university in the Midwest of the United States responded to the study survey. Findings indicate that students with more exposure to human rights issues showed more civic engagement. This relationship between human rights exposure and civic engagement was mediated by students’ attitudes toward human rights, but not moderated by normative beliefs. In addition, students majoring in social work revealed higher civic engagement and more positive attitudes toward human rights issues than those in other disciplines.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

References

  1. Aday, L., & Cornelius, L. J. (2006). Designing and conducting health surveys: a comprehensive guide (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Adler, R. P., & Goggin, J. (2005). What do we mean by “civic engagement”? Journal of Transformative Education, 3(3), 236–253.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50(2), 179–211.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Ajzen, I. (2002). Constructing a TPB questionnaire: conceptual and methodological considerations [PDF document]. Retrieved from http://chuang.epage.au.edu.tw/ezfiles/168/1168/attach

  5. Ajzen, I., Joyce, N., Shelkh, S., & Cote, N. G. (2011). Knowledge and the prediction of behavior: the role of information accuracy and the theory of planned behavior. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 33(2), 101–117.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Alcantar, C. M. (2014). Civic engagement measures for Latina/o university students. New Directions for Institutional Research, 2013(158), 23–35.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Amnå, E. (2012). How is civic engagement developed over time? Emerging answers from a multidisciplinary field. Journal of Adolescence, 35(3), 611–627.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Armitage, C. J., & Conner, M. (2001). Efficacy of the theory of planned behavior: a meta-analytic review. British Journal of Social Psychology, 40(4), 471–499.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Aronowitz, T., Lambert, C. A., & Davidoff, S. (2012). The role of rape myth acceptance in the social norms regarding sexual behavior among college students. Journal of Community Health Nursing, 29(3), 173–182.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Arvan, M. (2012). Reconceptualizing human rights. Journal of Global Ethics, 8(1), 91–105.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Barksdale, C. L., & Molock, S. D. (2009). Perceived norms and mental health help seeking among African American college students. The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, 36(3), 285–299.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator variable distinction in social psychological research: conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51(6), 1173–1182.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Barrows, T. S. (1981). College students’ knowledge and beliefs: a survey of global understanding. New Rochelle: Change Magazine Press.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Barton, K. C. (2015). Young adolescents’ positioning of human rights: findings from Columbia, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and the United States. Research in Comparative and International Education, 10(1), 48–70.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Baumgartner, J. C., & Morris, J. S. (2010). MyFaceTube politics: social networking web sites and political engagement of young adults. Social Science Computer Review, 28(1), 24–44.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Beaumont, E., Colby, A., Ehrlich, T., & Torney-Purta, J. (2006). Promoting political competence and engagement in college students: an empirical study. Journal of Political Science Education, 2(3), 249–270.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Bobek, D., Zaff, J., Li, Y., & Lerner, R. M. (2009). Cognitive, emotional, and behavioral components of civic action: towards an integrated measure of civic engagement. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 30(5), 615–627.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Bowman, N. A. (2011). Promoting participation in a diverse democracy a meta-analysis of university diversity experiences and civic engagement. Review of Educational Research, 81(1), 29–68.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Chang, M. K. (1998). Predicting unethical behavior: a comparison of the theory of reasoned action and the theory of planned behavior. Journal of Business Ethics, 17(16), 1825–1834.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Chen, H., Thag, I., & Liu, P. (2013). Framing human rights and cultural diversity training in social work classrooms-the case of female marriage immigrants in Taiwan. Journal of Women and Social Work, 28(4), 429–439.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Cohrs, J. C., Maes, J., Moschner, B., & Kielmann, S. (2007). Determinants of human rights attitudes and behavior: a comparison and integration of psychological perspectives. Political Psychology, 28(4), 441–470.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Council on Social Work Education (2008, revised in 2015). Education policy and accreditation standards. Retrieved from http://www.cswe.org/File.aspx?id=13780

  23. Crowson, H. M., Brandes, J. A., & Hurst, R. J. (2013). Who opposes rights for persons with physical and intellectual disabilities? Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 43(S2), E307–E318.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Custom Insight (2015). Survey random sample calculator [Software]. Available from http://www.custominsight.com/articles/random-sample-calculator.asp

  25. Dalton, R. J. (2015). The good citizen: how a younger generation is reshaping American politics. Thousand Oaks: CQ press.

  26. Diaz-Veizades, J., Widaman, K. F., Little, T. D., & Gibbs, K. W. (1995). The measurement and structure of human rights attitudes. The Journal of Social Psychology, 135(3), 313–328.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Diller, E. C. (2001). Citizens in service: the challenge of delivering civic engagement training to national service programs. Washington, DC: Corporation for National and Community Service.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Dillman, D. A., Smyth, J. D., & Christian, L. M. (2014). Internet, phone, mail, and mixed-mode surveys: the tailored design method (4th ed.). Hoboken: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Doolittle, A., & Faul, A. C. (2013). Civic engagement scale: a validation study. SAGE Open, 3(3), 1–7.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Duke, N. N., Skay, C. L., Pettingell, S. L., & Borowsky, I. W. (2009). From adolescent connections to social capital: predictors of civic engagement in young adulthood. Journal of Adolescent Health, 44(2), 161–168.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Egerton, M. (2002). Higher education and civic engagement. The British Journal of Sociology, 53(4), 603–620.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Einfeld, A., & Collins, D. (2008). The relationships between service-learning, social justice, multicultural competence, and civic engagement. Journal of University Student Development, 49(2), 95–109.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Ekman, J., & Amnå, E. (2012). Political participation and civic engagement: towards a new typology. Human Affairs, 22(3), 283–300.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Fishbein, M., & Ajzen, I. (2010). Predicting and changing behavior: the reasoned action approach. New York: Taylor & Francis.

  35. Fisher, W. A., Fisher, J. D., & Harman, J. (2003). The information-motivation-behavioral skills model: a general social psychological approach to understanding and promoting health behavior. Social Psychological Foundations of Health and Illness, 22, 82–106.

  36. Flanagan, C., & Levine, P. (2010). Civic engagement and the transition to adulthood. The Future of Children, 20(1), 159–179.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Fletcher, A. C., Elder, G. H. J., & Mekos, D. (2000). Parental influences on adolescent involvement in community activities. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 10(1), 29–48.

    Google Scholar 

  38. French, D. P., & Cooke, R. (2012). Using the theory of planned behaviour to understand binge drinking: the importance of beliefs for developing interventions. British Journal of Health Psychology, 17(1), 1–17.

    Google Scholar 

  39. George, J. (1999). Conceptual muddle, practical dilemma human rights, social development and social work education. International Social Work, 42(1), 15–26.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Glynn, C. J., Huge, M. E., & Lunney, C. A. (2009). The influence of perceived social norms on college students’ intention to vote. Political Communication, 26(1), 48–64.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Göckeritz, S., Schultz, P. W., Rendón, T., Cialdini, R. B., Goldstein, N. J., & Griskevicius, V. (2010). Descriptive normative beliefs and conservation behavior: the moderating roles of personal involvement and injunctive normative beliefs. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40(3), 514–523.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Godin, G., & Kok, G. (1996). The theory of planned behavior: a review of its applications to health-related behaviors. American Journal of Health Promotion, 11(2), 87–98.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Hellman, C. M., Hoppes, S., & Ellison, G. C. (2006). Factors associated with college student intent to engage in community service. The Journal of Psychology, 140(1), 29–39.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Hertel, S., Scruggs, L., & Heidkamp, C. P. (2009). Human rights and public opinion: from attitudes to action. Political Science Quarterly, 124(3), 443–459.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Hibbert, N. (2017). Human rights and social justice. Law, MDPI, Open Access Journal, 6(2), 1–16.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Hyde, M. K., & Knowles, S. R. (2013). What predicts Australian university students’ intentions to volunteer their time for community service? Australian Journal of Psychology, 65(3), 135–145.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Jacoby, B. (2009). Civic engagement in today’s higher education: an overview. Civic Engagement in Higher Education: Concepts and Practices (pp. 5–30).

    Google Scholar 

  48. Kezar, A. (2002). Assessing community service learning: are we identifying the right outcomes? About Campus, 7(2), 14–20.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Kiesa, A., Orlowski, A. P., Levine, P., Both, D., Kirby, E. H., Lopez, M. H., & Marcelo, K. B. (2007). Millennials talk politics: a study of university student political engagement. Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED498899.pdf.

  50. Knapp, T., Fisher, B., & Levesque-Bristol, C. (2010). Service-learning’s impact on university students’ commitment to future civic engagement, self-efficacy, and social empowerment. Journal of Community Practice, 18(2–3), 233–251.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Krings, A., Austic, E. A., Gutiérrez, L. M., & Dirksen, K. E. (2015). The comparative impacts of social justice educational methods on political participation, civic engagement, and multicultural activism. Equity & Excellence in Education, 48(3), 403–417.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Leong, F. T., Pickren, W. E., & Vasquez, M. J. (2017). APA efforts in promoting human rights and social justice. American Psychologist, 72(8), 778–790.

    Google Scholar 

  53. Marcelo, K. B., Lopez, M. H., & Kirby, E. H. (2007). Civic engagement among young men and women. In Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED495763.pdf.

  54. Mayhew, M. J., & Fernández, S. D. (2007). Pedagogical practices that contribute to social justice outcomes. The Review of Higher Education, 31(1), 55–80.

    Google Scholar 

  55. McPherson, J., & Abell, N. (2012). Human rights engagement and exposure in social work: new scales to challenge social work education. Research in Social Work Practice, 22(6), 704–713.

    Google Scholar 

  56. McPherson, J., & Cheatham, L. P. (2015). One Million Bones: measuring the effect of human rights participation in the social work classroom. Journal of Social Work Education, 51(1), 47–57.

    Google Scholar 

  57. McPherson, J., & Mazza, N. (2014). Using arts activism and poetry to catalyze human rights engagement and reflection. Social Work Education, 33(7), 944–958.

    Google Scholar 

  58. Metzger, A., & Ferris, K. (2013). Adolescents’ domain-specific judgments about different forms of civic involvement: variations by age and gender. Journal of Adolescence, 36(3), 529–538.

    Google Scholar 

  59. Mezirow, J. (1997). Transformative learning: theory to practice. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 74, 5–12.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Mollen, S., Rimal, R. N., Ruiter, R. A., Jang, S. A., & Kok, G. (2013). Intervening or interfering? The influence of injunctive and descriptive norms on intervention behaviors in alcohol consumption contexts. Psychology & Health, 28(5), 561–578.

    Google Scholar 

  61. National Association of Social Workers (1996; Revised in 2008). Code of Ethics. Retrieved from https://www.socialworkers.org/pubs/code/code.asp

  62. Niemi, R. G., & Hanmer, M. J. (2010). Voter turnout among college students: new data and a rethinking of traditional theories. Social Science Quarterly, 91(2), 301–323.

    Google Scholar 

  63. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (2015). Human rights. Retrieved from http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Pages/WhatareHumanRights.aspx.

  64. Ojala, M. (2012). Hope and climate change: the importance of hope for environmental engagement among young people. Environmental Education Research, 18(5), 625–642.

    Google Scholar 

  65. Pancer, M. S., Pratt, M., Hunsberger, B., & Alisat, S. (2007). Community and political involvement in adolescence: what distinguishes the activists from the uninvolved? Journal of Community Psychology, 35(6), 741–759.

    Google Scholar 

  66. Petracchi, H. E., Weaver, A., Schelbe, L., & Song, H. A. (2016). Service learning in baccalaureate social work education: results of a national survey of accredited programs. Journal of Social Work Education, 52(3), 325–336.

    Google Scholar 

  67. Prentice, M. (2007). Service learning and civic engagement. Academic Questions, 20(2), 135–145.

    Google Scholar 

  68. Putnam, R. (2000). Bowling alone: the collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon & Schuster.

    Google Scholar 

  69. Redman, M., Taylor, E., Furlong, R., Carney, G., & Greenhill, B. (2012). Human rights training: impact on attitudes and knowledge. Tizard Learning Disability Review, 17(2), 80–87.

    Google Scholar 

  70. Rimal, R. N., & Real, K. (2005). How behaviors are influenced by perceived norms a test of the theory of normative social behavior. Communication Research, 32(3), 389–414.

    Google Scholar 

  71. Rome, S. H., & Hoechstetter, S. (2010). Social work and civic engagement: the political participation of professional social workers. Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, 37(3), 107–129.

    Google Scholar 

  72. Ronan, B. (2004). Testimony at the White House conference on aging public forum on civic engagement in an older America. 25 February 2004, Phoenix, Arizona.

  73. Rozario, P. (2006). Volunteering among current cohorts of older adults and baby boomers. Generations, 30(4), 31–36.

    Google Scholar 

  74. Sanyal, P. (2009). From credit to collective action: the role of microfinance in promoting women’s social capital and normative influence. American Sociological Review, 74(4), 529–550.

    Google Scholar 

  75. Sherrod, L. R., Torney-Purta, J., & Flanagan, C. A. (2010). Handbook of research on civic engagement in youth. Hoboken: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  76. Simons, L., & Cleary, B. (2006). The influence of service learning on students’ personal and social development. University Teaching, 54(4), 307–319.

    Google Scholar 

  77. Sobel Test Calculator for the Significance of Mediation. Retrieved from http://danielsoper.com/statcalc3/calc.aspx?id=31

  78. Stellmacher, J., & Sommer, G. (2008). Human rights education: an evaluation of university seminars. Social Psychology, 39(1), 70–80.

    Google Scholar 

  79. Stellmacher, J., Sommer, G., & Brahler, E. (2005). The cognitive representation of human rights: knowledge, importance, and commitment. Peace and Conflict, 11(3), 267–292.

    Google Scholar 

  80. Swank, E., Frost, D. M., & Fahs, B. (2012). Rural location and exposure to minority stress among sexual minorities in the United States. Psychology & Sexuality, 3(3), 226–243.

    Google Scholar 

  81. Teresi, H., & Michelson, M. R. (2015). Wired to mobilize: the effect of social networking messages on voter turnout. The Social Science Journal, 52(2), 195–204.

    Google Scholar 

  82. Torney-Purta, J. (2002). The school’s role in developing civic engagement: a study of adolescents in twenty-eight countries. Applied Developmental Science, 6(4), 203–212.

    Google Scholar 

  83. Van Benshoten, E. (2001). Civic engagement for people of all ages through national service. Unpublished manuscript.

  84. Weerts, D. J., Cabrera, A. F., & Mejías, P. P. (2014). Uncovering categories of civically engaged college students: a latent class analysis. The Review of Higher Education, 37(2), 141–168.

    Google Scholar 

  85. Wray-Lake, L., Tang, J., & Victorino, C. (2017). Are they political? Examining Asian American college students’ civic engagement. Asian American Journal of Psychology, 8(1), 31–42.

    Google Scholar 

  86. Yang, H. C., & DeHart, J. L. (2016). Social media use and online political participation among college students during the US election 2012. Social Media+ Society, 2(1), 2056305115623802.

    Google Scholar 

  87. Zukin, C., Keeter, S., Andolina, M., Jenkins, K., & Carpini, M. X. D. (2006). A new engagement?: Political participation, civic life, and the changing American citizen. New York: Oxford University Press.

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ilan Kwon.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Kwon, I., Lee, J., Cummings, C.E. et al. Human Rights Attitude and Civic Engagement Behavior Among University Students. J. Hum. Rights Soc. Work (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41134-020-00128-y

Download citation

Keywords

  • Human rights education
  • Civic engagement
  • Social work education
  • Attitudes and behaviors