Adolescents' explanations for political issues: concordance with their views of self and society


The relationships between adolescents' explanations for unemployment, poverty, and homelessness and their beliefs about opportunity, reports of family values, and personal aspirations were tested for 434 teenagers (mean age = 16 years 4 months). Explanations were coded for references to individual causes, societal causes, or both. Higher maternal education and average household income in the adolescent's school district were positively related to the likelihood of attributing all three problems to societal causes. When explaining unemployment, older adolescents noted both causes, and boys mentioned individual factors whereas girls mentioned societal factors. After adjustment for background factors, those endorsing individual causes were more likely to believe that all Americans enjoyed equal opportunity and that government support encouraged dependency, and they were more committed to materialist goals. In contrast, youth endorsing societal or situational causes had more altruistic life goals and reported that compassion was emphasized in their families.


Family Studies

Publication Date


Journal Title

Developmental Psychology


American Psychological Association

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Document Type