According to author Marion Menard (2010), when it comes to youth and civic engagement, parents and other family members play a significant role in instilling social responsibility. After conducting research regarding youth and civic engagement, Marion shared the following findings from her research:
“Obviously, the family is a very strong locus of socialization. Parents and other family members exercise the primary role in shaping children’s personalities. The discussions that young children have within the family are their first meaningful experiences with debating ideas and with self-assertion and self-affirmation.This intuitive observation was corroborated by Constance Flanagan and her colleagues in 1995 in an investigation into the roles of school and the family in the emergence of civic engagement in a number of countries. The study looked at 5,579 young people between the ages of 12 and 18 in three countries recognized as democratically stable (Australia, Sweden and the United States) and in four transitionally democratic countries previously located in the East Block (Russia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Hungary). The study’s main finding was that youths were more likely to engage civically when their families instilled social values and a sense of social responsibility in them”.
Marion’s findings align with my own life experience. I started voting once I reached the age of eligibility. I also started volunteering shortly after that. And, my decision to do both was influenced by my father. I spent most of my life watching him vote and volunteer.
My elementary school served as a voting station. And, it was conveniently located across the street from our home. With this, each voting period, my father and I would cross the street to vote — voting was natural, and a tradition.
My father was also an avid volunteer. He volunteered as a friendly visitor (for well over forty years) with a local nursing home. He approached voting and volunteering earnestly — doing both consistently. Moreover, he loved exercising his right to vote. And, he always spoke about the joy he received from supporting others. Now as an adult, just like my dad, I value my volunteer experiences and I exercise my right to vote. However, instead of supporting one cause, I choose to support many (and in different ways). Thanks to my dad, I caught the voting and volunteering bug early — and it has stuck! With this in mind, whenever parents ask me how they can help their children to be more socially responsible, I tell them to lead by example.
Here are some additional articles (by other authors) related to this topic:
- Factors Associated With Voting (Statistics Canada)
- All Together Now: Collaboration and Innovation for Youth Engagement (The Report of the Commission on Youth, Voting and Civic Knowledge, 2013)
- Youth Civic Engagement
- Building Blocks for Youth Volunteer Engagement