Children’s lived citizenship learning processes: Impact of a voluntary approach

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Although children's citizenship is generally overlooked in much of contemporary research on citizenship, Western policy-makers hope to equip children with the tools necessary for successful (future) civic participation. Still, very little is known about the ability of civil society to support citizenship learning for the youngest generations. This article presents original, quantitative research from a study on a local community program for children aged 8–16 in Denmark. The purpose of the program – implemented by the Danish Red Cross Youth – is to embed children and adolescents in local community networks, in this way fostering their citizenship capacities. Starting from theories on children's ‘lived’ citizenship and citizenship as a learning process, local children's one-year development on different everyday aspects of citizenship is analyzed, and the effects of community program participation are investigated. It is found that it is, indeed, possible to strengthen the citizenship learning of children from many different social backgrounds through an intentional, volunteer-based intervention – but active involvement of child participants is a key ingredient in supporting their volunteering experiences. Furthermore, inequality in program yield for different social groups can be an unintentional consequence of individual child self-selection when participation is non-mandatory.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104807
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Childhood
  • Civic participation
  • Difference-in-differences
  • Lived citizenship
  • Youth


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