Skip to main content
×
Home
    • Aa
    • Aa

Childhood Skill Development and Adult Political Participation

  • JOHN B. HOLBEIN (a1)
Abstract

Recent child development research shows that the psychosocial or noncognitive skills that children develop—including the ability to self-regulate and integrate in social settings—are important for success in school and beyond. Are these skills learned in childhood also important for adult political behaviors like voting? In this article, I use a unique school-based 20-year field experiment to explore whether children who develop psychosocial skills early on are more likely to vote in adulthood than those who do not. Matching subjects to voter files, I show that this intervention had a noticeable long-run impact on political participation. These results highlight the need to better understand how childhood experiences shape civic behaviors later in life. During this critical period, children can be taught the not explicitly political, but still vital, skills that set them on a path toward political participation in adulthood.

Copyright
Corresponding author
John B. Holbein is Assistant Professor, Brigham Young University, 745 Kimball Tower, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602 (john.holbein@byu.edu).
Footnotes
Hide All

I wish to thank the National Science Foundation (SES-1416816) for its generous financial support. I would also like to thank Kenneth Dodge for providing invaluable feedback and assistance throughout this project; the other members of the Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group (CPPRG)—Karen L. Bierman, John D. Coie, Mark T. Greenberg, John E. Lochman, Robert J. McMahon, and Ellen E. Pinderhughes—for their very generous access to the Fast Track data; Jennifer Goodwin and Jeff Quinn for their help with the Fast Track data; and Marisa Abrajano, Nicholas Carnes, Anna Gassman-Pines, Christina Gibson-Davis, Donald Green, D. Sunshine Hillygus, Bradley Jones, Helen Ladd, Jan Leighley, Quin Monson, Marcos Rangel, Lucy Sorensen, Steven Sexton, Steven Snell, Jacob Vigdor, five anonymous reviewers, and participants at the Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA), the American Political Science Association (APSA), the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM), Boston University, Brigham Young University, Columbia University, Duke University, University of Virginia, Princeton University, University of Chicago, University of Tennessee, and Tufts University for their thoughtful feedback.

Footnotes
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Joshua D. Angrist , Guido W. Imbens , and Donald B. Rubin . 1996. “Identification of Causal Effects Using Instrumental Variables.” Journal of the American Statistical Association 91 (434): 444–55.

Stephen Ansolabehere , and Eitan Hersh . 2012. “Validation: What Big Data Reveal About Survey Misreporting and the Real Electorate.” Political Analysis 20 (4): 437–59.

Jennifer Astuto , and Martin D. Ruck . 2010. “Early Childhood as a Foundation for Civic Engagement.” In Handbook of Research on Civic Engagement in Youth. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 249–76.

Gary S. Becker , and Nigel Tomes . 1986. “Human Capital and the Rise and Fall of Families.” Journal of Labor Economics 4 (3): S1–39.

Henry E. Brady , and John E. McNulty . 2011. “Turning Out to Vote: The Costs of Finding and Getting to the Polling Place.” American Political Science Review 105 (01): 115–34.

Raj Chetty , John N. Friedman , Nathaniel Hilger , Emmanuel Saez , Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach , and Danny Yagan . 2011. “How Does Your Kindergarten Classroom Affect Your Earnings? Evidence from Project Star.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 126 (4): 1593–660.

Meghan Condon , and Matthew Holleque . 2013. “Entering Politics: General Self-Efficacy and Voting Behavior Among Young People.” Political Psychology 34 (2): 167–81.

CPPRG. 1999 a. “Initial Impact of the Fast Track Prevention Trial for Conduct Problems: I. The High-Risk Sample.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 67 (5): 631–47.

CPPRG. 1999 b. “Initial Impact of the Fast Track Prevention Trial for Conduct Problems: II. Classroom Effects.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 67 (5): 648–57.

CPPRG. 2002. “Evaluation of the First 3 Years of the Fast Track Prevention Trial with Children at High Risk for Adolescent Conduct Problems.” Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 30 (1): 1935.

CPPRG. 2007. “Fast Track Randomized Controlled Trial to Prevent Externalizing Psychiatric Disorders: Findings from Grades 3 to 9.” Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 46 (10): 1250–62.

CPPRG. 2010. “Fast Track Intervention Effects on Youth Arrests and Delinquency.” Journal of Experimental Criminology 6 (2): 131–57.

Robert A. Dahl 1992. “The Problem of Civic Competence.” Journal of Democracy 3 (4): 4559.

Kevin Denny , and Orla Doyle . 2008. “Political Interest, Cognitive Ability and Personality: Determinants of Voter Turnout in Britain.” British Journal of Political Science 38 (02): 291310.

Angela L. Duckworth , Christopher Peterson , Michael D. Matthews , and Dennis R. Kelly . 2007. “Grit: Perseverance and Passion for Long-Term Goals.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 92 (6): 1087–101.

James H. Fowler , and Cindy D. Kam . 2006. “Patience as a Political Virtue: Delayed Gratification and Turnout.” Political Behavior 28 (2): 113–28.

James H. Fowler , and Cindy D. Kam . 2007. “Beyond the Self: Social Identity, Altruism, and Political Participation.” Journal of Politics 69 (3): 813–27.

Sebastian Garmann . 2016. “The Effect of a Reduction in the Opening Hours of Polling Stations on Turnout.” Public Choice 171: 99117.

Alan S. Gerber , Gregory A. Huber , David Doherty , and Conor M. Dowling . 2011. “The Big Five Personality Traits in the Political Arena.” Annual Review of Political Science 14: 265–87.

Alan S. Gerber , Gregory A. Huber , Marc Meredith , Daniel R. Biggers , and David J. Hendry . 2015. “Can Incarcerated Felons Be (Re) Integrated into the Political System? Results from a Field Experiment.” American Journal of Political Science 59 (4): 912–26.

Donald P. Green , Shang E. Ha , and John G. Bullock . 2010. “Enough Already About Black Box Experiments: Studying Mediation Is More Difficult Than Most Scholars Suppose.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 628 (1): 200–08.

Fred Greenstein . 1965. “Children and Politics”. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press

James J. Heckman 2000. “Policies to Foster Human Capital.” Research in Economics 54 (1): 356.

James J. Heckman , and Yona Rubinstein . 2001. “The Importance of Noncognitive Skills: Lessons from the GED Testing Program.” American Economic Review 91 (2): 145–49.

James J. Heckman , Jora Stixrud , and Sergio Urzua . 2006. “The Effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labor Market Outcomes and Social Behavior.” Journal of Labor Economics 24 (3): 411–82.

Kosuke Imai , Luke Keele , Dustin Tingley , and Teppei Yamamoto . 2011. “Unpacking the Black Box of Causality: Learning About Causal Mechanisms from Experimental and Observational Studies.” American Political Science Review 105 (04): 765–89.

Jan E. Leighley , and Jonathan Nagler . 2013. Who Votes Now? Demographics, Issues, Inequality, and Turnout in the United States. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Robert C. Luskin 1990. “Explaining Political Sophistication.” Political Behavior 12 (4): 331–61.

Jeffery J. Mondak 2010. Personality and the Foundations of Political Behavior. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Jeffery J. Mondak , Matthew V. Hibbing , Damarys Canache , Mitchell A. Seligson , and Mary R. Anderson . 2010. “Personality and Civic Engagement: An Integrative Framework for the Study of Trait Effects on Political Behavior.” American Political Science Review 104 (01): 85110.

Christopher Ojeda . 2015. “Depression and Political Participation.” Social Science Quarterly 96 (5): 1226–43.

Julianna Sandell Pacheco , and Eric Plutzer . 2007. “Stay in School, Don't Become a Parent: Teen Life Transitions and Cumulative Disadvantages for Voter Turnout.” American Politics Research 35 (1): 3256.

Daeun Park , Eli Tsukayama , Geoffrey Goodwin , Sarah Patrick , and Angela Duckworth . 2017. “A Tripartite Taxonomy of Character: Evidence for Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, & Intellectual Competencies in Children.” Contemporary Educational Psychology 48: 1627.

Eric Plutzer . 2002. “Becoming a Habitual Voter: Inertia, Resources, and Growth in Young Adulthood.” American Political Science Review 96 (01): 4156.

Eric Plutzer , and Nancy Wiefek . 2006. “Family Transitions, Economic Status, and Voter Turnout Among African-American Inner-City Women.” Social Science Quarterly 87 (3): 658–78.

Virginia Sapiro . 2004. “Not Your Parents’ Political Socialization: Introduction for a New Generation.” Annual Review of Political Science 7: 123.

Donald D. Searing , Joel J. Schwartz , and Alden E. Lind . 1973. “The Structuring Principle: Political Socialization and Belief Systems.” American Political Science Review 67 (02): 415–32.

Rachel M. Sondheimer , and Donald P. Green . 2010. “Using Experiments to Estimate the Effects of Education on Voter Turnout.” American Journal of Political Science 54 (1): 174–89.

Lucy C. Sorensen , and Ken A. Dodge . 2016. “How Do Childhood Interventions Prevent Crime?Child Development 87 (2): 429–45.

Carole Jean Uhlaner . 1989. “Relational Goods and Participation: Incorporating Sociability into a Theory of Rational Action.” Public Choice 62 (3): 253–85.

Henry M. Wellman , David Cross , and Julanne Watson . 2001. “Meta-Analysis of Theory-of-Mind Development: The Truth About False Belief.” Child Development 72 (3): 655–84.

Elliott S. White 1968. “Intelligence and Sense of Political Efficacy in Children.” Journal of Politics 30 (03): 710–31.

Yaling Yang , and Adrian Raine . 2009. “Prefrontal Structural and Functional Brain Imaging Findings in Antisocial, Violent, and Psychopathic Individuals: A Meta-Analysis.” Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging 174 (2): 8188.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×
Type Description Title
PDF
Supplementary Materials

Holbein supplementary material
Online Appendix

 PDF (670 KB)
670 KB

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 8
Total number of PDF views: 71 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 580 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 19th June 2017 - 26th June 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.