Political Science Now

Childhood Skill Development and Adult Political Participation

Childhood Skill Development and Adult Political Participation

by John B. Holbein, Brigham Young University

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.

Available now in First View.

American Political Science Review / Published online: 19 June 2017