Understanding College Students’ Civic Identity Development: A Grounded Theory

Matthew R. Johnson


This article presents the results of a study designed to understand the development of college students’ civic identity—that is, an identity encompassing their knowledge, attitudes, values, and actions regarding civic engagement. Grounded theory was used to examine the experiences and attitudes of 19 college seniors who manifested strong civic identities. The resulting developmental model of civic identity includes five “positions” that represent identifiable progressions of civic identity development and mediating “key influences” that promoted or hindered students’ growth between these positions. Implications for research and practice are also discussed.


civic identity, civic engagement, college students, higher education

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