This article introduces civic purpose as a construct for learning about civic development in adolescence. Civic purpose, defined as a sustained intention to contribute to the world beyond the self through civic or political action, integrates the components of motivation, civic activity, and future-oriented civic intention. We present results from a mixed methods longitudinal study that used the civic purpose framework in which 1,578 high school seniors took a survey, 50 participated in an interview, and 9 additional adolescent “civic exemplars” participated in both the survey and the interview. Two years later, 480 participants took the survey again, and 34 participated in a second interview. A small percentage of the study subjects exhibited full civic purpose across three different types of civic activity (political, community service, expressive), while a larger percentage demonstrated precursory forms of civic purpose, with evidence of some but not all components of civic purpose. Key contributors to the development of civic purpose were: identity salience, beliefs and values, and invitation from one or more adults.
© 2015 S. Karger AG, Basel