Concepções de Cidadania e Experiências de Participação na Sociedade Civil: Uma perspectiva do Desenvolvimento Psicológico
Ph.D in Psychology
Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences, University of Coimbra, Portugal
July 30, 2007
Political participation is a central concern in many western societies. Lack of participation threatens the intended deepening of the democratic process, the (wanted) legitimation of the policies being put forth, and the desired adherence to democratic values and practices that underpin civil social behaviors. Rearticulated as citizenship concerns, these have also had a part in the reemergence of this concept, a reemergence that has become clear in the past decades affirming the need for better, more prepared and activated citizens, who are more involved, more responsible and more cooperative.
It was against this backdrop that our research project was formulated. It focuses on the developmental quality of the experiences of participating in associations, movements and groups of different sorts (civil society's broadly political organizations) and how it relates to the construction of more integrated, complex and comprehensive (psychologically more developed) ways of thinking about the political realm and acting politically. In addition, other important relationships were explored: the association between distinct kinds of involvement and more conventional ways of participating politically (e.g., voting, discussing political issues with others, etc.); as well as the relations between developmentally distinct ways of thinking about politics and respectively, the declared rates of conventional political participation and the preferred conceptions of citizenship.
Using quantitative methodology and a cross-sectional correlational design, we conducted a study (for which the adaptation and construction of some instruments were required – a process that became an important part of the work presented here) of 626 adolescents and adults from Porto's geographical area. The results, globally, document (i) how the diversity (and tensions) within the citizenship concept should be considered when the concept is used both in theorizing or in justifying intervention; (ii) the usefulness of bringing a developmental point of view when addressing concerns regarding political participation and its promotion; and (iii) the need to look deeper into the participation contexts, to the opportunities they provide for those involved in them, for personal transformation and the (re)construction of more comprehensive, committed and reflexive ways of thinking about politics (the activity of creating, with others, a world to be determined).