Psychologiczne portrety młodych obywateli

Anna Zalewska , Beata Krzywosz-Rynkiewicz




Traditionally, in the modern era, citizenship was understood contextually – it was defined according to time and place of residence. It pertained to the relationship between the individual and the state. It was the domain of consideration, research and analyses of two areas: political science and sociology. Post-modernism gave new context to citizenship. People nowadays live in different times and spaces simultaneously, they are members of national, local, public, ethnic, global and continental communities. Contemporary world’s problems can be solved rarely by political regulations, but more often by everyday human activity. Post-modernism gives new understanding to citizenship – it is no longer functioning in relation to the state, but to everyday life and everyday activity. It opens the issue of citizenship to other areas of science. How can psychology contribute to the understanding of active citizenship?

Most of the contemporary research (see Koseła, 2004a, 2005;  Lewicka, 2005a, 2008; Torney-Purta, 2002, 2003; Zielińska, 2004) concentrates on various social conditions and mechanisms, which influence the shaping of citizenship attitudes and citizenship behaviours, but also pro-social behaviours such as manifestations of solidarity, cooperation and help (Stürmer & Snyder, 2010). The role of individual characteristics is generally omitted. Meanwhile, it seems that individual characteristics can also play an important role in the shaping of active citizenship attitudes. They can serve as resources facilitating those attitudes or as barriers, hindering the gathering of necessary experiences and forming active citizenship attitudes.

In this text we would like to partly fill this void and show, whether personality dimensions are connected to those social behaviours, which can be described as citizenship behaviours. The main aim of our research was to answer questions:

1.    How do contemporary adolescents understand “active citizenship”?

2.    Is the intensity of various citizenship activities connected to adolescents’ individual characteristics, does it depend on age, gender and residence niche size?

3.    What profiles (patterns) of citizenship activity can be found among adolescents most often and does belonging to groups with different profiles depend on age, gender and residence niche size? Is it connected to individual characteristics?

Another aim of the project was to construct a tool, which would take various dimensions of citizenship behaviours into account and that would allow to assess the intensity of adolescents’ citizenship behaviour on those dimensions. Through that it would be possible to achieve research goals. The division into citizenship behaviour types was inspired by Kennedy’s conception (1997, 2006), which includes passive, semi-active and active citizenship. We modified the main dimensions with regard to other classification of citizenship (Herbst, 2005) and civic activity (Theiss-Morse, 1993; Lewicka, 2004, 2005). The research included the following dimensions of citizenship:

·         Passive citizenship including national identity (appreciating history, symbols and myths) and patriotism (supporting your country, military service, loyalty)

·         Semi-active citizenship including loyalty (obeying the law and subordination to regulations, respect for the state) and citizen virtues connected most of all to taking interest in public affairs and declared participation in elections (voting)

·         Active citizenship connected to four factors:

o   Political activity – declared participation in conventional political activity (e.g. running for office, being a member of a political party)

o   Social activity connected to participating in social movements and organizations working for the local society and in actions aimed at building and maintaining local community (e.g. representing the school)

o   Actively working for change – being committed to changing the status quo (petitioning, protests, street graffiti)

o   Personal activity – aimed at self-development, being responsible for oneself and one’s future

·         General citizenship activity mirroring a general attitude towards and engagement in communal and public issues. Low scores on this dimension translate to passivity, lack of engagement in state and community issues, other people’s issues and even lack of activity aimed at ensuring one’s good fortune and expecting help from other people and institutions.

The analyses took two individual resources types into account:

- Basic personality traits – included in trait theories and genetically conditioned:

·         Temperament – according to Regulative Theory of Temperament (Strelau, 1998, 2006).

·         BIG FIVE (Costa & McCrae, 1992b; Zawadzki, Strelau, Szczepaniak & Śliwińska, 1998) – five main personality traits: Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness to experience. The first three constitute the Alpha factor – showing socialisation, facilitating social adaptation and good relationships with others. The remaining two constitute Beta factor – meaning plasticity and aiming at personal growth.

- Specific personality traits, which in the cognitive-social approach are treated as central personality constructs. They are vital in defining personal goals and engaging in behaviours, the level of persistence and ways of coping with failure. Those traits are shaped by experiences connected to one’s own activity and by social influences. We distinguished five specific categories of personality traits, which are probably connected to social functioning:

·         Three main categories according to McClelland (1985), named also by Heckhausen (1991) and Reykowski (1992) – Achievements, social values and power (understood as leading and seeking influence)

·         Optimism treated as a tendency to perceive, evaluate and explain the world in positive, rather than negative terms, and a tendency to predict and expect favourable, rather than unfavourable events

·         We included five forms of optimism:

o   Two forms of essential optimism, in relation to people’s lives (connected to the belief that the world makes sense and is people-friendly) and in relation to global problems (connected to the belief that people are decent and ready to help others, and that good will prevail (Janoff-Bullman, 1989; Rotter, 1980)).

o   Two forms of causal optimism in relation to people’s lives in the local area and the problems of the local community, connected to the conviction, that people in the local area are good and, most of all, that they can change the world for the better (positive events in the future will be the result of other people’s actions, efforts and help, e.g. family, friends, community and social institutions)

o   Personal optimism – the conviction that future events will be favourable due to one’s own efforts, endeavours, skills and traits;

·         Locus of Control – (Rotter 1966; 1990) pertains to the locus of responsibility for what happens to oneself. In the course of their lives, people learn to believe that they themselves decide their fate, they have the feeling of agency and a belief in internal control or that they are lead by independent factors, such as luck, fate, the actions of other people who have power, which constitutes a belief in external control.

·         Mental Toughness defined as the ability to cope with challenges and difficulties, which allows to achieve better results (Clough et al., 2002).

·         Responsibility – in which we refer to the idea of subject responsibility (Krzywosz-Rynkiewicz, 2007) and we distinguish (1) formal or subject responsibility – connected to referring it to the Self as an instance and (2) readiness to take responsibility in general and for behaviours.

340  students took part in the study (including 190 girls and 140 boys). The students were aged 11 (105 students), 14 (128 students) and 17 (107 students). 159 lived in a small town (ca. 15 thousand inhabitants) in Warmia and Mazury district close to Olsztyn. The others lived in the metropolitan area of Warsaw.

To measure citizenship we used Citizenship Activity Questionnaire constructed especially for the study. The questionnaire allowed to measure all basic dimensions of citizenship and it achieved high reliability. In the questionnaire we asked questions about current activity (e.g. do you participate in student council elections?) and future activity (e.g. when you come of age, will you run for office?). Temperament was estimated by using Formal Characteristics of Behaviour – Temperament Inventory (FCB-TI, Zawadzki & Strelau, 1997). To assess Big Five traits we used NEO-FFI Personality Inventory by Costa and McCrae adapted by Zawadzki and colleagues (1998). Values, as described by McClelland, were measured by a modified Super’s technique Work Values Inventory  (Super, 1970, 1973; Zalewska, 2000), and optimism – with What do you think about the future? questionnaire (Holden, 2007). To measure locus of control we used Drwal’s Delta questionnaire(1980, 1985), a to assess Mental Toughness - MTQ48 (Clough et al. 2002, MTQ48, 2004). Various forms of responsibility were assessed by a short questionnaire, that includes a description of 12 behaviours for which 5 point scales were provided (Krzywosz-Rynkiewicz, 2007b).

In our research we wanted to check, what active citizenship meant for teenagers. In order to do that we used associative method (AGA), which allows for the generation of spontaneous statements (without imposing content and schemata). Thanks to the method we could learn how adolescents understand active citizenship and whether the statements include dimensions listed in the theoretical conceptions.

Active citizenship according to adolescents is scarcely satiated with passive categories, which are mostly connected to patriotism – love of the country, readiness to defend it, etc. National symbols and religious ideas are of marginal importance. Semi-active and active dimensions are present on a similar level. Semi-active citizenship means, most of all, active participation in elections, although civic virtues, manifested through hard, everyday work are also significant. Active citizenship is connected to personal input – generally perceived personal activity, engagement and orientation towards community, connected to mutual, everyday help rather than institutionalised activity manifested through engagement in social charity actions. Political activity is of little significance. It is seen by teenagers as activity within political parties (e.g. legislative) rather than being a member or running for office (both categories of associations are of only marginally present). It must be stressed, that action for change is not associated by adolescents with active citizenship.

The structure of citizenship activity assessed by the questionnaire is similar in all age groups. Adolescents are ready to be active and semi-active citizens. Among behaviours ascribed to active citizenship category, personal activity is the most common and political activity, as well as action for change are the least common. The patterns are congruent with some of the international research results (Torney-Purta et al., 2001; Torney-Purta, 2003). The highest level of personal activity (aimed at personal growth and independence) and behaviours typical for passive and semi-active citizenship show, that among adolescents there is a tendency towards citizenship based on individualistic, rather than collectivistic values (Herbst, 2005). It also takes up an individualistic-instrumental character, rather than communistic-ethical.

The declared political activity is faintly connected to the niche size (it is larger in smaller niches) if effects of gender, age and their interactions are controlled for. It is also faintly, positively correlated (less than 0.20) to social optimism pertaining to problems (belief, that local community can solve them) and responsibility. Activity aimed at change is connected positively to Openness to experience and the correlations are stronger for younger girls (aged 11 and 14) in smaller towns.

Low intensity of those two forms of activity and their weak correlations to personal characteristics probably stem from negative values ascribed to them in the Polish society.

From among the remaining five dimensions of citizenship, which are widely accepted and have positive valuations ascribed to them, three (semi-active, social activity and general citizenship activity) are connected to Agreeableness. Those three dimensions and personal activity are positively correlated with Openness to experience. All widely accepted dimensions of citizenship are positively correlated with Conscientiousness and specific personality traits – social optimism, mental engagement in activity, undertaken subject responsibility and orientation towards social values. The most relationships to basic traits were observed for social activity, which is additionally connected to Extraversion, meta-factors Alpha and Beta and to Activity and Briskness.

The analyses indicate, that three temperament traits: Emotional Reactivity, Endurance and Perseverance, as well as Neuroticism from the Big Five model are not significantly connected to citizenship activity dimensions. This means, that traits delineating the ability to process stimulation are very important in extreme life situations (por. Strelau, 2006), but they are rather not meaningful for the prediction of citizenship behaviours, which are a part of everyday situations.

As a result of Principal Components Analysis (with Varimax rotation) for all personality variables (that were correlated with citizenship dimensions) 6 factors were revealed. Its results indicate, that apart from Alpha and Beta factors and apart from the Big Five traits, there are other personal characteristics, which are important for behaviour regulation, but, at least among teenagers, they are faintly correlated to those basic traits. The data confirms, that the Big Five conception does not embrace all personality characteristics participating in behaviour regulation (Oleś, 2003; Pervin, 1996). In further analyses we tested the role that the emerged factors played in explaining specific dimensions of citizenship.

Regression analyses results indicated, that the contribution of basic traits (Conscientiousness and Openness) to explaining selected dimensions of citizenship was smaller than that of specific traits. What is more, basic traits’ effects vanished, when specific personality traits were included in the analyses. This means, that basic traits’ effects are included in the influence of the specific traits, so that specific traits regulate citizenship behaviour more intensely and more directly. We can thus conclude, that basic traits, together with previous experiences, co-determine the shape of specific traits (the level of basic traits is not differentiated by age, but the level of specific traits depends on age – see Table. 17). Furthermore, specific traits contribute to explaining citizenship behaviour more directly and they can modify the level of basic traits (see Bleidorn et al., 2010).

Specific personality traits, encompassing beliefs shaped to a great extent by social environment and experiences connected to engagement in various activities, were systematically correlated with all dimensions of socially accepted citizenship behaviours. Regression analyses indicated, that other specific traits (determining specific resources in goal attainment) were especially important for predicting specific behaviours:

·         The level of social optimism (the belief, that local community influences local problem solving) and taking subject responsibility allowed to predict the less active forms of citizenship

o   In combination with mental engagement they were predictors of national identity and patriotism (constituting passive form)

o   In combination with orientation towards social values, they were predictors of behaviours constituting semi-active form of citizenship (loyalty, systematic learning and readiness to vote)

·         The level of mental engagement allowed to predict engaging in more active forms of behaviour (social and personal activity)

·         The level of orientation towards social values allowed to predict behaviours oriented towards extra-personal values – towards common well-being in semi-active form of citizenship or towards the well-being of others in social activity.

Such configuration of results suggests, that social optimism, taking subject responsibility and mental engagement constitute personal resources facilitating goal attainment that shield from citizenship passivity. Values, on the other hand, serve as catalysts directing towards extra-personal well-being and extra-self goals. To paraphrase Seligman (2002), we can say, that orientation towards social values fosters a life full of sense. We can also speculate, that high levels of optimism and engagement are conductive of a full life.

Gender differentiated the level of social activity and passive citizenship. Among girls, there was a stronger orientation towards social values and greater social activity than among boys. Similar differences were identified in research including learning pupils in schools (Zalewska, 1987) and adolescents’ life goals (Zalewska, 1997, 1999). Boys manifested higher levels of passive citizenship, more intense national identity and patriotism, but the pattern was significant in smaller town among 11 and 14 year olds. Gender did not differentiate other citizenship behaviours. It was, however, a factor that modified the effects of personality traits on general citizenship activity – different traits allow for its prediction among boys (Openness, engagement, social optimism towards problems and taking responsibility) and among girls (Conscientiousness and social values), which suggests, that it is saturated with different types of behaviours among girls and boys.

Research indicates, that age alone does not intensify or weaken readiness to actively participate in public life. With age, however, the role of personality traits increases, especially traits that are basic in behaviour regulation. Among the youngest adolescents (starszy wiek szkolny) basic personality traits were not its predictors, but it was explained by specific traits (ca. 20%). During early adolescence, general citizenship activity was predicted by two basic personality traits, but their role in the explaining thereof was much smaller (12%) than the role of specific traits (33.2%). During late adolescence, the role of basic traits (31.2%) in explaining general citizenship activity was larger than the role of specific traits (26.2%). During this period, however, specific traits explained citizenship activity in a more direct way, because the effects of those traits vanished, if specific traits were introduced.

Adolescents in smaller niches manifested greater tendencies towards citizenship behaviours. What is more, metropolitan teenagers had lower levels of those personality traits, which shield from citizenship passivity – social optimism towards problems and engagement in activity – and lower levels of orientation towards social values than teenagers from the smaller town. What is more, the niche size modified the role that personality traits played in denoting general citizenship activity – the share that personality characteristics had in explaining general citizenship activity in smaller niches was smaller than among teenagers from metropolitan areas.

Results suggest, that if the situation demands citizenship activity, young people from small niches engage in it more often, because they have greater resources. In a big city, on the other hand, engaging in activity depends to a greater extent on traits-resources, because those lacking them do not engage in activity. The results may also indicate, that life in smaller niches is disadvantageous for the shaping of citizenship attitudes, because being active in this environment is steered externally – young people cannot engage in activity despite having the resources, if external signals do not come forth. The significance of niche for the shaping of citizenship attitudes and behaviours calls for further, more detailed analyses.

An important goal of our study was to verify the profiles (configurations) of active citizenship, that emerge among adolescents most often and to check if being a member of a specific group where certain profiles of activity dominate, depends on gender, size of the niche and if it is connected to personality characteristics. Basing on Quick cluster analysis, we isolated three clusters with characteristic profiles of citizenship activity:

      The first cluster was characterised by low levels of general citizenship activity, especially lack of engagement in widely accepted forms of such activity and above average level of political activity and activity aimed at change, signifying a tendency to control authority and change the social system. We called people manifesting such profiles Rebels – they constituted 16.2% of the research group.

      The second group manifested low levels of political activity and activity aimed at change, but on all other dimensions the activity was close to average. People belonging to this group do not want to stand out or engage in intense actions which could harm them – we called them Conservatives or Safe-Players. They constituted 56.7% of the group.

      The third group manifested a more-than-average or high levels of citizenship activity on all dimensions. People belonging to this group declare, that they abide the law, engage in activities that are beneficial for the state, other people as individuals and for the community. They also nurture their development, but engage in actions directed at changing and improving the world. We called them Reformers and they constituted 27% of the group.

The analyses did not indicate a relationship between being ascribed to one of the three groups and age or gender. It does not stem from developmental changes or experiences gathered at a specific development stage, nor does it stem from cultural gender patterns.

Being ascribed to one of the three groups depends only slightly on niche size – chi-squared (df = 2, n = 289) = 25,70, p < 0,001 (Kramer’s V = 0,30, p <0,001). Being a metropolitan teenager heightened the probability of being ascribed to the Rebel group (with low general citizenship activity and higher-than-average political activity and action for change). Living in a smaller town, heightened the probability of being ascribed to the Reformers group (with high or higher than average citizenship activity of all types). Niche size did not matter for the proportion of Conservatives (with average general citizenship activity and low level of political activity and action for change).

We also verified, whether groups showing characteristic profiles of citizenship activity differ in their personality characteristics. Groups differ mostly with reference to Conscientiousness (and through that with the Alpha factor, indicating socialisation and orientation towards commonality, and with the level of general personality factor). Logistic regression analyses indicated, that responsibility, optimism, mental toughness and values are of vital importance here. They also showed, that some variable configurations boost differences between Rebels and other groups, and other configurations – to boost differences between Reformers and remaining groups.

Rebels, who constitute around 15% of the population, consist of teenagers with low levels of citizenship activity of the passive and semi-active type, but also with low readiness for social and personal activity. These teenagers also have a tendency towards political activity and activity aimed at change. They are less ready to participate in everyday actions benefitting local community and in legal citizenship participation and to participate in acts of patriotism. These teenagers are, however, oriented towards authority control, protests and political activity – belonging to parties and running for offices. Rebels have lower levels of Conscientiousness, low levels of orientation towards social values and authority values, and scarce specific resources – subject responsibility, essential optimism and mental toughness. Traits uncharacteristic of the Rebel group are: high Conscientiousness and orientation towards authority values, high levels of responsibility and optimism connected to trusting people, as well as mental toughness. It seems that specific personality traits constitute resources, which shield from the lack of engagement in widely accepted forms of citizenship activity, but they sometimes may serve as barriers, which hinder taking actions aimed at change.

Conservatives constitute the biggest group of adolescents (56%). They show average levels of social and personal activity, as well as passive and semi-active activity, together with low levels of political activity and activity aimed at change. They have sufficient levels of specific resources (subject responsibility taken, essential optimism and mental toughness). On the other hand, they show weak orientation towards social and authority values, which facilitate engaging in widely accepted forms of citizenship. They also have relatively high levels of achievement orientation, which causes them to concentrate on personal activity and may hinder engagement in various forms of citizenship activity.

Reformers show high levels of all forms of activity. The constitute more than a quarter of the adolescent population, that took part in the study (27%). They have high levels of specific resources – responsibility, mental toughness and essential optimism pertaining to social problems. They also have high levels of Conscientiousness, orientation towards social and authority values and a moderate orientation towards achievement. Characteristics that make it more probable to be ascribed to Reformers group are: high levels of Conscientiousness, focus on authority and social values and lower levels of focus on achievement. Concentrating on gaining influence over one’s environment combined with focus on good relations with others facilitates various types of citizenship activity. Intense focus on achievement – aiming to achieve goals valued in the society, striving for perfection and accepting challenges lowers the probability of being ascribed to the Reformers group. It most probably causes one to be concentrated on personal activity and can hinder various forms of citizenship activity.

Our research is pioneer in nature. Its results indicate, that individual characteristics play a vital role in adolescents’ citizenship activity. Although the group of adolescents who took part in the study was large and from two types of environments, it was not representative of the entire population. The research on the significance of niche size merits further studies of longitudinal nature, which would allow for the monitoring of changes in the level of teenagers’ activity and that would include a wider range of variables, e.g. local adult activity, intellectual capital and social capital.

The research indicates, that traits pertaining to behaviour content play a more important role in determining citizenship activity, rather than those pertaining to formal aspects of behaviour. The studies discussed here, however did not include the basic characteristics pertaining to cognitive functioning. Those characteristics may influence citizenship activity, since they codetermine social functioning (Sękowski, 1994, 2009). Their significance for citizenship activity merits further research.

Our study has its limitations in that it uses tools based on adolescents’ subjective evaluations. Further research should include evaluations of teenagers’ activities done by other people (peers, teachers) and objective data pertaining to activity and its results.

Surely, education practitioners should not ignore the fact, that in their understanding of citizenship activity, teenagers underestimate the value of politics, and ascribe greater value to personal, individual input. Young people’s concentration on themselves and their own success can threaten institutionalised forms of social activity. Currently, teenagers do not see them as crucial and therefore they are not ready to engage in them.

Our research indicates, that two groups of teenagers are interested in political activity – Reformers, who generally want to engage in social life, and Rebels, who are not interested in social activity but are oriented towards rebellion, authority control and political activity in political parties. Rebels are also characterised by personality traits (low responsibility, low mental toughness, optimism and social values) that may cause concern about the way that politics is practiced. Educators should be aware that the main challenge is to enhance those adolescents’ resources (optimism, mental toughness, responsibility and engagement) and help them internalise their social values, so that the drive towards political participation also includes other areas of citizenship activity and not only rebellion.

In the context of our study’s results, questions pertaining to the dynamic of change in the group presence and structure arise: Will the same groups emerge in different populations? Will their proportions (size) change in time and when conditions change – what conditions will cause Rebels to thrive and what will cause Conservatives and Reformers to thrive?

The fact that specific, rather than basic traits are more significant in shaping citizenship activity are cause for optimism. By specific traits, we mean those beliefs, that are shaped by social influences and experiences of one’s own activity, engaging in action, achieving success and experiencing defeat. A challenge for educators is thus creating such environments, where discourse and everyday practice enhance the development of resources shielding from passivity and lack of engagement in social life, and facilitate the internalisation of significant values, especially social values connected to authority (being able to influence one’s surroundings). Being with other people on an everyday basis and engaging in common activity according to certain rules is of vital importance to citizenship activity. Engaging in citizenship activity needs to be preceded by beliefs facilitating such activity – beliefs about oneself, the future, as well as important goals and standards determining social functioning.

Book typeMonograph
Author Anna Zalewska (Wydział Psychologii)
Anna Zalewska,,
- Wydział Psychologii
, Beata Krzywosz-Rynkiewicz
Beata Krzywosz-Rynkiewicz,,
Publisher name (outside publisher list) Wydawnictwo SWPS Academica
Publishing place (Publisher address)Warszawa
Issue year2011
Publication size in sheets14.1
Languagepl polski
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