The political socialisation of youth : a comparison of private and state educated girls
The research explores the political socialisation of young females. Politics is defined broadly as the perception of patterns of human relationships, incorporating socio-economic concepts. Two elements of socialisation are identified which inform both theory and research design. First, political socialisation content is explored, operationalised in terms of political attitudes. Second, political socialisation process is explored, operationalised in terms of history of political exploration and the making of political commitments (derived from concepts of adolescent identity development described by Erikson and Marcia). The role of socialising agents is discussed, the study focussing of the role of school experience in political socialisation. An empirical study is reported which explored the role of school experience in political socialisation, operationalised in a comparison of girls attending private and state sector schools. Questionnaires were completed by 181 girls aged 15-18 in the two types of school. Individual interviews were conducted with 127 of this group (67 private, 60 state) from comparable social backgrounds. The aim was to compare girls matched for family background but experiencing different types of educational structure. The interviews explored attitudes to a range of political and socio-economic phenomena (the content of political socialisation), and history of political exploration and commitment (the process of political socialisation). The process dimension was based on the identity categories of achievement, foreclosure, moratorium and diffusion described by Marcia. Significant differences between the two school samples are reported for both the content and process of political socialisation. Factors in the school experience which might lead to these differences are described. The implications of the results are discussed in relation to theories of political socialisation, and education theory and policy.