A study of the relationship of several variables on the political attitudes of adolescents

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

This study investigated the influence of three variables on current political attitudes of secondary school adolescents at two suburban-rural high schools in the northern Virginia area. Ability, grade level, and sex were examined to determine their influence on attitude measures essential to the develoµnent of citizenship within the social studies curriculum. The Freedans Scale, Law Scale and Dogmatism Field Scale were administered to a random sample of 180 ninth and twelfth grade adolescents which was equally divided between male and female subjects. The sample was further divided by ability levels (low, average, and high) which were selected by SRA subtest scores in reading, math, language arts, and educational ability. Significant findings were discerned using multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA), and chi-square analysis. Group and individual differences were examined for each of the independent variables studied as they affected the dependent measures of political attitudes.

One three-way and three two-way interactions were tested using the MANOVA. Only one interaction (ability by grade) was significant at the .05 level on the Dogmatism Scale. It was concluded that an increase in grade and ability levels effect lower scores on the Dogmatism Field Scale. Lower dogmatism scores effect an increase in support for the fundamental freedoms embodied in the Freedoms Scale.

Sex, as a variable, was the only main effect that did not interact with ability level or grade. The mean scores of the females in the study were slightly higher than the mean scores of the males on both the Freedoms Scale and the Law Scale. These results indicated a greater support for the fundamental freedoms embodied in the Freedoms Scale and a greater respect for the law and government officials for females over males.

Separate chi-square analysis of the individual responses to the questions on the Freedoms Scale and the Iaw Scale indicated a total of 21 items from the scales significantly related to ability and 17 items significantly related to grade or sex. No identifiable pattern was discernable which could be generalized into a group description of adolescent support or non-support for combinations of the various items.

Curricular approaches were suggested to improve citizenship instruction in the area of political socialization and recommendations were made for future research.