Civic Beliefs & Values

Compositive Model

Civic Beliefs & Values

To be full engaged in one’s community, be it large or small, one must develop certain skills, knowledge, beliefs, and values.

Engagement beliefs and values encompass beliefs and attitudes regarding political efficacy (i.e., whether an individual believes he or she can effect change) and beliefs about:

  • The future 
  • Social trust 
  • Trust in the American promise
  • Trustworthiness of media and elected officials 
  • Government being for ordinary people

A child can have fully internalized all components of Cognition, Character, and Health & Well-being, but she will remain unfulfilled unless he or she has ample opportunities to offer his or her skills and wisdom to the world.

There are different sets of research about beliefs, values, and civic identity.


  • Education and service opportunities play a major role in youths’ beliefs about their ability effect change in the civic arena. 
  • In turn, efficacy is related to future civic engagement
  • Demographic characteristics — parent education levels, gender, and race — and school climate impact youths’ perceptions of trust in the media, social trust, trust in the American promise, trust in elected officials, and trust that the government is for the people.


  • Civic values are influenced by participation in service-learning programs that empower youth.
    • Youth who take part in service-learning programs that value their “voice” demonstrate increases in tolerance for the elderly and the disabled.
  • The meaning of democracy to adolescents is, in part, informed by their values and the values of their families. Youth whose definition of democracy focuses on civic equality are likely to report that their family emphasizes the value of social responsibility (e.g., helping others less fortunate) and environmental responsibility.

Civic identity

  • Civic identity is shaped, in part, by participation in civic activities and organizations during adolescence.

Promising practices

  • We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution is an instructional program for K-12 students that is designed to promote civic competence.
    • A study found that program participants demonstrated higher levels of civic knowledge, higher levels of civic skills, and higher levels of civic responsibility compared to two different control groups.
  • Across Ages is a program that includes mentoring, a positive youth curriculum, and service (e.g., visits to a nursing home). 
    • Participants in the mentoring and community service learning programs demonstrated increases in civic knowledge and positive attitudes about the future. (No link available)

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