This report has highlighted both diversity and some trends in the way that young people learn about politics, enrolling to vote and voting with their families. There is no doubt that for most young people 'the family', and particularly parents, directly or indirectly, plays a signficiant role in giving young people a foundation upon which to build their own views of politics and democratic participation through voting. It was found that some families are better equipped in terms of resources in providing this information than others. It also highlights the importance of the school in levelling the playing field in terms of what is learned at home.
It was also discovered, however, that most young people are 'active' learners about politics, if not active participants, and that they turn to a number of sources for their political information. This supports criticism of the more traditional political socialisation literature discussed earlier. Of interest was that the 'activism' of many in terms of wanting to establish their own political views was in stark contrast to the passivity played in terms of enrolling to vote. Here participants waited for the opportunity to present itself rather than actively seeking it out. Also of interest was that whereas participants frequently challenged parental political views and opinions they tended to accept parental descriptions and assessments of voting without question, most of which were negative. Many also had negative views of voting drawn from childhood experiences at polling booths. Finally although there was evidence that many participants did discuss politics with their parents, and that parents did reveal their feelings about voting, there was little evidence that parents provided factual information about what was expected of citizens when they voted.
Another interesting and perhaps significant trend was in respect to 'gendered labour' within the family in terms of providing information about politics and ensuring that young people fulfill the obligation of enrolling to vote. Young people tended to name their fathers as discussants about politics, but relied on their mothers to assist in the procedural aspects of enrolling to vote. Although no causal relationship between this familial gendered division of labour and a 'participation gender gap' can be deduced this is an interesting aspect of the gender gap.
In conclusion this report describes both the importance of the family and its complexity in terms of an arena in which young people learn about politics, enrolling to vote and voting.
Andolina, M., K. Jenkins, C. Zukin, and S. Keeter (2003) "Habits From Home, Lessons From School: Influences on Youth Civic Engagement" PSOnline April URL: <http://www.apsanet.org> Consulted July 4th 2006
Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS] (2003a) Australian Social Trends 2003 Family Characteristics Australia Catalogue Number 4442.0, AGPS: Canberra.
Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS] (2003b) Australian Social Trends 2003: Population Characteristics – Ancestry of Australia's Population Catalogue Number 4102.0
Beck, P.A. (1991) 'Family Traditions, Political Periods and the Development of Partisan Orientations' The Journal of Politics 53, 3 742–763
Connell, R.W. (1971) The Child's Construction of Politics Melbourne: Melbourne University Press
Connell, R.W. (1987) 'Why The 'Political Socialization' Paradigm Failed and What Should Replace it' International Political Science Review 8,3 215–223
Dennis, J. (1968) 'Major Problems of Political Socialization Research' Midwest Journal of Political Science 12, 1 85–114
Dudley, R. and Gitelson, A. (2002) 'Political Literacy, Civic Education and Civic Engagement: A return to Political Socialization?' Applied Developmental Science 6,4, 175–182
Hyman, H. (1959) Political Socialization: A Study in the Psychology of Political Behavior New York: Free Press
Ichilov, O. (ed.) (1990) Political Socialization, Citizenship and Democracy New York: Teachers College Press
Jennings, M. K. and Niemi, R. (1968) 'The Transmission of Political Values from Parent to Child' The American Political Science Review 62, 1 169–184
Jennings, M. K and Niemi, R. (1971) The Division of Political Labour Between Mothers and Fathers The American Political Science Review 65, 1 69–82
Kreuger, R.A. 1988. Focus groups: A Practical Guide For Applied Research London: Sage.
Meirick, P. and Wackman, D. (2004) 'Kids Voting and Political Knowledge: Narrowing Gaps, Informing Votes' Social Science Quarterly 85,5 1161–1177
Miskin, S. and R. Lumb (2006) The 41st Parliament: Middle-Aged, Well Educated and (Mostly) Male. Parliament of Australia Parliamentary Library: Canberra
Accessed June 28th 2006.
Mitchell, J. (1986) Woman's Estate Pelican: Harmondsworth (First Published 1971)
Nie, N., J. Junn and K. Stehlik-Barry (1996) Education and Democratic Citizenship in America University of Chicago Press: Chicago
Niemi, R. (1977) 'Political Socialization' Annual Reviews 3, 209–233
Pateman, C. (1988) The Sexual Contract Cambridge: Polity
Print, M., L. Saha and K. Edwards (2004) Youth Electoral Study: Enrolment and Voting
Consulted July 4th 2006
Renshon, S. (1977) Handbook of Political Socialization New York: Free Press
Rowbotham, S. (1983) Woman's Consciousness, Man's World Harmondsworth: Pelican (First Published 1973)
Saha, L., Print, M. and Edwards, K. (2005) Youth Electoral Study: Youth, Political Engagement and Voting
Consulted July 4th 2006
Sears, D.O. (1990) 'Whither Political Socialization Research? The Question of Persistance' in O. Ichilov (ed.) Political Socialization, Citizenship and Democracy New York: Teachers College Press
Sex Discrimination Unit (2005) Striking the Balance: Women, Men, Work and The Family: Discussion Paper 2005 Sex Discrimination Unit: Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Unit Canberra: AGPS
Sherrod, L (2003) 'Promoting the Development of Citizenship in Diverse Youth.' PSOnline April
Consulted July 4th 2006
The Electoral Commission (2004) Gender and Political Participation Research Report April 2004 London: The Electoral Commission
The Electoral Commission (2005) Social Exclusion and Political Engagement. London: The Electoral Commission
Torney-Purta, J., Lehmann, R., Oswald, H. Schulz, W. (2001) Citizenship and Education in Twenty-Eight Countries: Civic Knowledge and Engagement at Age 14 Amsterdam: IEA
Vromen, A. (2003) Traversing Time and Gender: Australian Young People’s Participation Journal of Youth Studies 6, 3 277–294