Want to help your teenagers become successful adults? Get them involved in civic activities, scientists have found.
In a study published in the current issue of the journal Child Development, scientists discovered that teens who were engaged in civic activities, such as volunteering and voting, were more likely than non-engaged peers to attain higher income and education levels as adults.
"We know from past research that taking part in civic activities can help people feel more connected to others and help build stronger communities, but we wanted to know if civic engagement in adolescence could enhance people's health, education level and income as they become adults," said Parissa J. Ballard, Ph.D., assistant professor of family and community medicine at Wake Forest Baptist and principal investigator of the study.
Ballard and her team used a nationally representative sample of 9,471 adolescents and young adults between the ages of 18 to 27 when civic engagement was measured, and then six years later outcomes - health, education and income - were measured.
"Relative to other common approaches used in this kind of research, this method lets us have greater confidence that civic engagement really is affecting later life health and education," Ballard said.
The research team found that volunteering and voting were also favourably associated with subsequent mental health and health behaviours, such as a fewer symptoms of depression and lower risk for negative health behaviours including substance use.