The Role of Civic Identity in the Preferences of Civil and Political Forms of Social Activity in Russian Youth

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Abstract


Civic identity is an important feature of a socialised person. It regulates numerous personal behavioural manifestations, e.g. commitment to the country, patriotism, willingness to participate in important processes related to democratic procedures, desire to realise values that are of paramount importance for adaptation and integration with other representatives of civil society. The aim of this research is to determine the role of civic identity in the preferences of civil and political forms of social activity among young people in provincial Russia. The study involved 305 people (35.4% men) aged 17 to 35 (M = 21.1; SD = 3.1). The study used a questionnaire aimed at determining the socio-demographic characteristics of the sample group, containing scales for assessing the degree of personal involvement in certain forms of social activity (R.M. Shamionov et al.), Civic Identity Scale (A.N. Tatarko), Self-Assessment of the Propensity for Extreme Risky Behavior Technique (the Russian version of M. Zuckerman’s Sensation Seeking Scale). The study revealed that the indicators of commitment to protest, radical-protest and subcultural activity are more homogeneous and less pronounced in comparison with the indicators of civic, political and socio-economic activity. As a result of the factor analysis, it was found that civic-political (civic, socio-economic and political) and subcultural-protest (subcultural, protest and radical-protest) forms of activity constitute two stable factors. As a result of structural modelling, it was shown that civic identity has a positive impact on social activity in the civil-political field and a negative impact on subcultural-protest activity. Seeking new experiences plays a positive role in subcultural-protest activity of young people, while the feeling of uncertainty undermines the manifestations of civic-political activity. The study also revealed an important role of socialisation conditions: the participation of parents in the public life of the country contributes to civic-political activity and the formation of civic identity of their children. Civic identity reduces the manifestation of the feeling of uncertainty and the search for new experiences among young people.


Full Text

Introduction Personal regulation of human social activity is one of the most difficult and debatable problems. Despite the fact that there is a lot of evidence in favour of external conditions, situations, social environment and other phenomena as determinants of human social behaviour, the role of the personality is just as significant, although it remains undisclosed and not fully understood. Social activity of young people is a significant source of development of society. This is particularly relevant and important in the context of strengthening the role of civic initiatives, civic participation in public life. This applies equally to Russia, although to a certain extent these processes may vary in different countries due to their culture, traditions, history or development experience. Therefore, a study aimed at assessing the role of certain personality characteristics in commitment to one or another form of social activity will be important both for scientific analysis and for the development of society. In recent decades, the social activity of young people has been closely studied in the psychology of education, since it was considered through the prism of its carriers (young people), who, as a rule, studied at school, college and university (Gunbina, Litvak, 2014; Skornyakova, 2015; Perminova, 2016; Krasilshchikov, Osetrov, 2017). It was also assumed that the social activity of young people is a means of mental, socio-psychological development, a means of socialisation (Dzhioeva, 2015; Yeshpanova et al., 2014; Oosterhoff et al., 2019). Therefore, some researchers considered the possibility of managing social activity, guiding it in a certain direction, creating model situations, as a result of interaction with which young people received the experience of social participation (Furman, Grindina, 2015). However, such a narrow understanding of the social activity of young people decreases the value of scientific knowledge about it. The social activity of young people goes far beyond educational, leisure, Internet networking, labour or spiritual-developmental activities (Shamionov, 2019; Grigoryeva, 2019). Modern young people are involved in civil, political and economic processes (Chan, Guo, 2013; Savrasova-Vyun, 2017), their communication is more often mediated by joint activities with others, including representatives of other age, status and qualification groups. For this reason, modern researchers increasingly pay attention to the problem of youth civic activity (Magranov, Detochenko, 2018), political activity (Kahne, Bowyer, 2018; Shiratuddin et al., 2017; McFarland, Thomas, 2006), economic (Arendachuk, 2018; Savchenko et al., 2018), subcultural activity (Kuzovenkova, 2019), etc. Psychological studies concern various factors of activity (Shamionov, 2018), their consistency (Shamionov et al., 2019), the structure of activity (their joint variability - commitment to a group of forms) (Arendachuk, 2018; Shamionov, 2018). Civil-political forms of social activity are studied from various angles and mainly from the standpoint of civic participation. Therefore, the socio-psychological analysis of these activities touches more on the problems of the relationship between social identity and the nature of activity (Grant et al., 2017; Merrilees et al., 2013; Pan, 2019), acceptance of the values of civil/political movements (Lin, 2019), the influence of trust on civic, political and volunteer behaviour (Liu, Shen, 2020), as well as the significant role of social responsibility in civic and political behaviour (Fernandez, Langhout, 2018; Owusu-Agyeman, Fourie-Malherbe, 2019); various characteristics of social activity in the context of social (virtual, for example, Facebook) networks are studied (Chan, Guo, 2013; Savrasova-Vyun, 2017). It should also be noted that civic participation is often viewed as a pro-social behaviour and in some cases it is even supposed to be studied within the framework of certain programmes (Lin, 2019; Sze-Yeung Lai, Chi-Leung Hui, 2020). Meanwhile, there is evidence from developmental research that trajectories of pro-social behaviour are positively associated with later social and political involvement (Taylor et al., 2018). This means that manifestations of civic-political forms of activity are associated not only with a certain degree of social maturity, but also with the absence of early civic-political pressure. However, another study that tested the hypothesis about the influence of the media (newspapers, television, radio and the Internet) on the expected participation in various civic and political events found that the use of the media stimulates political debate and civic participation (Reichert, Print, 2017). The authors proved that civic knowledge and efficiency mediate the relationship between political communication and (civic) participation: directly and indirectly. This means that informing (but not propaganda) is a key condition for youth civic participation. It should be noted that, in the conditions of modern Russian reality, the civic, political and economic activity of young people is an important driver for developing democracy and public institutions. At the same time, inclusion in various forms of social activity contributes to the socialisation of young people in the field of rights and freedoms as well as ways to defend them. An important circumstance is that for many young people the opportunity for civic participation remains unused (Sokhadze, 2017). Researchers have shown that a fairly large number of individuals (according to various estimates, from 30 to 60%) do not believe that social activity can bring tangible results (Balabanov, Kukonkov, 2013; Trotsuk, Sokhadze, 2014). However, according to other sources, there is an increase in protest sentiments (Mikhailova, Skogorev, 2017), social tension due to growing economic problems and the ‘curtailment’ of legal forms of expressing discontent and criticism of the authorities (Petukhov, 2016), in particular, among young people. It should also be noted that the lack of participation of a large number of people in public associations (and even more so, in spontaneous actions) does not at all mean a lack of social activity. Moreover, apparent passivity can be very deceptive, since under certain conditions, due to the tension noted by the researchers and dissatisfaction with basic needs (Guseinov, 2017), the formation of activity can proceed rapidly. It can manifest itself in different areas, and self-assessment of social activity gives consistently high results in research (Shamionov, Grigoryev, 2019). An important question is whether the commitment to the country, identification with it, as well as the effects of socialisation in the family are related to commitment to certain forms of social activity. This is a fundamental question, since there are opinions that neither economic nor political activity is conditioned by the commitment to the country of residence, since the world is global and there is always the possibility of changing the city, region, country or even continent. However, Russia may have its own specifics. This is evidenced, in particular, by the indicators of migration from provincial regions (Federal State Statistics Service, 2018), according to which there is an outflow of the population from villages and small towns to megalopolises. In addition, metropolitan and provincial regions are characterised by differences in numerous socio-psychological characteristics associated with the population density, availability of cultural objects, event saturation and other conditions of socialisation and life. Therefore, the socio-psychological analysis of personal commitment to various forms of social activity, including the formation of separate groups of activity, to which young people are simultaneously committed, and their determinants, is the most important task of modern social psychology. The aim of this study is to determine the role of civic identity in the preferences of Russian provincial youth participating in civic and political forms of social activity. Methods Sample. The study involved 305 people (108 men - 35.4% and 197 women - 64.6%) aged 17 to 35 (M = 21.1; SD = 3.1); 53 (17.4%) marrieds; 271 (88.9%) urban residents (including 136 from large cities - 44.6% and 135 from small towns - 44.3%) and 34 (11.1%) rural residents; education: secondary school - 171 (56%), secondary vocational (technical school, college) - 43 (14%), bachelor’s (specialist’s) degree - 82 (26.9%), master’s (and higher) degree - 8 (2.6%). The sample type was randomised. The study was carried out on the territory of the Volga region (Saratov and Ulyanovsk regions). Techniques. The study used a questionnaire aimed at determining the socio-demographic characteristics of the sample, containing scales for assessing the effects of socialisation (beliefs in the possibility of realising activity in society), parental participation in public life, uncertainties of the life situations experienced by the respondents. The degree of personal involvement in certain forms of social (civic-political) activity was studied using scales developed by the author’s team (Shamionov et al., 2019; Bocharova, 2018) aimed at measuring commitment to one or another type of social activity (the dimension of this scales is 5 points according to the Likert-type scale): Socio-Political Activity (SPA), Civic Activity (CA), Socio-Economic Activity (SEA), Protest Activity (PrA), Radical-Protest Activity (RPrA) and Subcultural Activity (SA). The scales are developed on the basis of research on ideas about social activity. The Civic Identity Scale (Tatarko, 2014) is aimed at assessing the degree of civic identity. It contains 4 points (“I would rather be a citizen of only Russia, and not of any other country”; “I strongly feel that I belong to Russia”; “I am proud to be a citizen of Russia” and “It is very important for me to feel my belonging to Russia”), each of which is assessed from 1 to 5 points. The internal consistency check gave a good result, α Cronbach = 0.85. Personality propensity for taking risks was assessed using Self-Assessment of Propensity for Extreme Risky Behaviour. This technique is the Russian abbreviated version of Sensation Seeking Scale (SSS) Form IV (Zuckerman, 1979) adapted by O.P. Isakova (Nikiforov, 2005). This Russian version of questionnaire includes 40 points and 4 scales (10 points on each scale): (1) Sensation Seeking (SS); (2) Intolerance to Monotony (IM); (3) New Experience Seeking (NES); (4) Non-adaptive Striving for Difficulties (NSD). It should be noted that the content and the titles of the scales in the Russian version are slightly different from the original SSS (the original titles are: (1) Thrill and Adventure Seeking; (2) Boredom Susceptibility; (3) Experience Seeking; and (4) Disinhibition respectively). The scales were checked for consistency: α Cronbach = 0.55; 0.71; 0.62; 0.61 respectively. In addition, the internal consistency of the questionnaire was checked using correlation analysis. Design. The logic of the research is as follows. At the beginning, the primary statistics of all the indicators are analysed. Then, a factor analysis of the indicators of personal commitment to various forms of social activity is conducted. At the next stage, the results of the correlation analysis are analysed. Then, a structural modelling procedure is introduced to determine the direction of the links between personality characteristics, socialisation effects and associations of forms of activity. Results and discussion As Table 1 shows, the indicators of commitment to political, civic and socio-economic activity among young people are higher in comparison with protest, radical-protest and subcultural activities. However, the latter are more homogeneous and less pronounced in comparison with the former three forms of activity. This indicates not only a (higher degree of commitment to socially approved forms of activity, but, actually, a general tendency toward their higher differentiation in the sample. The rather vivid activity of some may coexist with the passivity of others. Table 1 Primary statistics and correlations Variables M SD PA SV SE PrA RP SK Parental activities in the public life of the country (PAC) 2.07 1.05 .21** .25** .15** .11 .10 .07 Conviction in possible participation in the public life of the country (S1) 3.09 1.19 0.13* .17** .28** -.04 -.05 -.12* Possibility of personal participation in the public life of the country (P1) 2.73 1.17 .24** .27** .24** .04 -.06 -.16** Civic identity (CID) 3.15 0.89 .10 .28** .10 -.21** -.16** -.19** Confusion 2.67 1.22 -.11 -.14* -.09 .05 .06 .08 Sensation seeking (R1) 4.88 2.41 -.02 .05 .15* .12* .02 .12* New experience seeking (R2) 4.08 2.68 -.07 -.09 -.01 0.01 .16** .03 Intolerance to monotony (R3) 3.54 1.95 .04 -.02 .12* .21** .11 .17** Non-adaptive striving for difficulties (R4) 3.55 2.19 -.01 .02 .08 -.01 .01 .08 Political activity (PA) 1.73 0.94 1.00 .54** .27** .27** .24** .07 Civic activity (CV) 1.84 1.08 .54** 1.00 .35** .20** .18** .04 Socio-economic activity (SEA) 2.69 1.37 .27** .35** 1.00 .23** .06 .02 Protest activity (PrA) 1.46 0.88 .27** .20** .23** 1.00 .40** .32** Radical-protest activity (RPrA) 1.32 0.76 .24** .18** .06 .40** 1.00 .43** Subcultural activity (SСА) 1.43 0.95 .07 .04 .02 .32** .43** 1.00 Note. * - p < 0.05; ** - p < 0.01. The above results (Table 1) clearly show a more weighty conviction of Russian citizens in possible participation in the country’s public life and their personal opportunities, but the experience of parental participation reflected by the respondents is much lower (in all the cases, a 5-point scale was used). Obviously, the respondents are aware that, albeit fairly young parents who have caught the times of “political consensus”, diversity and relative stability, in general, manifest themselves at a fairly low level in the public life of the country, although the value of the standard deviation testifies in favour of a fairly high spread of this indicator. Finally, the indicators of commitment to risk (sensation seeking) are also differentiated according to the degree of risk acceptability: from seeking sensations characteristic (R1) of young people to seeking new experiences (R2) and from intolerance to monotony (R3) to non-adaptive striving for difficulties (R3) in descending order) (the differences between indicators in paired samples R1-R3 are significant at the level of p < 0.01; R3-R4 are not significant). Judging by the values of standard deviations, the range of the indicators is very high. This means that a sufficiently high risk tolerance is combined with its almost complete rejection. The results of the correlation analysis (Table 1) show that civic-political forms of activity are associated with the conditions of personal socialisation, as a result of which (normative) beliefs about the possibility of participating in the socio-political life of the country are formed: in general (for all residents) and in particular for the respondents themselves, as well as with the experience of parental participation in it. At the same time, no such correlations were found with protest forms of activity, and commitment to subcultural activity is negatively associated with these beliefs. It is obvious that the lack of confidence in the possibility of active participation in the social and political life of the country and the belief in the impossibility of personal participation are associated with the ‘escape’ to subcultures, where young people find understanding, acceptance and support. Perhaps subcultures are for them precisely the groups where they can realise values that are not accepted by the majority. The correlation analysis shows that civic identity is closely related to civic activity (positively) and protest, radical-protest and subcultural activity (negatively). It should also be noted that civic activity is associated with the feeling of uncertainty (negatively), which indicates not only their mutual conjugation but that the certainty of life is associated with civic participation and the uncertainty (obviously) dampens it. In other words, it dispels the well-known myth that the uncertainty of life is a motivator for the subject’s civic activity. In addition, it follows from the results of these studies that protest forms of activity - political protest, radical political protest, subcultural activity - turn out to be separated from beliefs in the possibility of ‘civic participation’. Nevertheless, despite the existing links between pro-social and ‘oppositional’ forms of activity, the latter are pushed into the zone of least significance. Another important factor considered in this study is the propensity for taking risks. It was assumed that the propensity for taking risks is a fairly common form of behaviour among young people, and it may be associated with social activity. As can be seen from the results of the correlation analysis, a relatively reasonable risk is associated with socio-economic, protest and radical-protest forms of activity. Thus, the indicators of the propensity for risky behaviour, sensation seeking and new experience seeking are associated with socio-economic, protest and subcultural activities, while intolerance to monotony is associated only with radical-protest activity. It follows from these data that the propensity to take an active risk inherent in a certain part of young people is associated with non-destructive forms of activity. Perhaps seeking sensations and new experiences are important reasons for being involved in certain activities. These data are consistent with the results of studies on the inclusion in the political culture of aspects of modern risk culture: on the one hand, fear of risk and, on the other hand, striving for risk, as a function of overcoming pressure from the institutional social structures (Kirdyashkin, 2018). It seems interesting that radical-protest activity is associated with intolerance to monotony, i.e., with a personality trait that regulates constancy, the ability to withstand monotony. This also means that a person inclined to radical actions can use all kinds of reasons or arguments for speaking out against something, using radical means. It is also important that the indicators of non-adaptive striving for difficulties are relatively low, very heterogeneous in the sample and are not associated with activity, which indicates the relative reasonableness of young people in risky behaviour. The data of the factor analysis conducted by the maximum likelihood method with Varimax rotation are presented in Table 2. For factorisation, the indicators of commitment to forms of social activity were used. As Table 2 shows, all the forms of activity considered in the study were included in two factors that describe 60.24% of the total variance. These are civic, socio-economic and political forms of social activity. It can be termed as ‘civic-political activities’. This is the most powerful factor. Its content suggests that civic, economic and political forms of activity for young people are in one area of life: one thing implies another. This, as shown above, is characteristic of most forms of activity. The second factor includes protest radical-protest and subcultural forms of activity. Therefore, this factor can be called ‘subcultural-protest activities’. This means that these forms of activity are presumably characterised by a common cause of joint variability. Therefore, in the subsequent modelling by structural equations, these forms of activity will be presented as indicators of the corresponding (separate) latent variables. It should be noted that these results reflect a general trend emerging in contemporary Russian culture, in which political, economic and, in part, civic goals and objectives are ‘combined’ (Vasenina, Pronchev, 2018). However, foreign experience suggests the opposite: civic activity both in the perception of young people and in explicit research is associated with pro-sociality (Taylor et al., 2018), assistance provided, pro-ecological behaviour, volunteering and charity (Wray-Lake et al., 2019) or associative party membership (communist, as we are talking about China), self-organising associations of urban partnerships, volunteering and digital activity (Liu, Shen, 2020). It can be noted that very often in Russian reality, protest forms of activity (regardless of their orientation: economic, political or environmental) are stigmatised in society, become close in their content to subcultural activity. The attitude towards it, in view of (as a rule) a small number of participants or the characteristics of ‘otherness’ attributed to these participants, is at the same level as towards representatives of subcultures. Therefore, the unity of this factor is quite understandable. Meanwhile, this kind of activity is generally associated with the perception of the limited ability to participate in politics. Therefore, there is often an exit to the level of networking in specific areas where political and civic participation takes place (Chan, Guo, 2013). Table 2 Factor analysis results Forms of social activity Factor 1 2 Civil Activity (CA) .772 - Socio-Economic Activity (SEA) .436 - Political Activity (PA) .673 - Protest Activity (PrA) - .514 Radical-Protest Activity (RPrA) - .705 Subcultural (SC) - .620 Variance (60.24% total) 37.26 22.98 Note. Only variables with a factor weight > .40 were taken into account. At the next stage of the study, a structural modelling procedure was carried out, as a result of which a model was obtained that included two types of social activity with influencing variables (Figure). As the model agreement indicators (below the Figure) show, the modelling procedure gave an acceptable result. Figure. Structural model of two types of activity Note. The following designations are used: Civic Identity (CID); Parental Activities in the Public Life of the Country (PAC); the Feeling of Uncertainty (Confusion); Intolerance to Monotony (R3); Political Activity (PA), Civic Activity (CV), Socio-Economic Activity (SEA), Protest Activity (PrA), Radical-Protest Activity (RPrA), Subcultural Activity (SCA). The model (Figure) explains about 22% of the variations in the preferences of civil-political and 12% of subcultural-protest forms of activity. The most important role in it is played by civic identity, which affects these two factors directly and indirectly, i.e. civic-political forms of activity through the feeling of uncertainty and subcultural-protest forms of activity through the new experience seeking. These results are somewhat consistent with studies on the influence of socio-psychological factors on the electoral choice involving Scottish youth, which showed that identity and reflected social attitudes are significant factors in civic behaviour (Grant et al., 2017). It is interesting to note that this study found that the relationship between identity, relative deprivation, and collective efficiency, on the one hand, and voting for Scottish independence, on the other hand, were entirely mediated by beliefs in the need for social change. Similar data were obtained in another study in Hong Kong (after mass protests), which showed that perceptions of citizenship were associated with the feeling of belonging to Hong Kong, but the subsequent feeling of political isolation sharply reduced this identity (Pan, 2019). Obviously, social identity is not simply a factor of commitment to a certain form of social activity, but also a factor of (cognitive) choice. In addition, what calls attention to itself is the direct negative connection from identity to uncertainty, indicating that the clarity of civic identity can be a factor in social certainty. An exogenous variable in this model is the experience of parental participation in the public life of the country. This variable has a direct and indirect impact on civic-political forms of activity through civic identity. This situation is not at all accidental, since the experience of parents’ participating in the public life of the country means the availability of information about their participation. As long as parents are included, as a rule, in reference groups, their behaviour and activity serve as a kind of regulators of their own behaviour. In light of the research carried out by S. Russo and E. Amna (2016), this does not seem accidental. They found that political conversations promote political participation over time, when people perceive their partners in the discussion as politically active, and this effect is especially pronounced in the case of significant people. Finally, there is a directed connection from civil-political forms of activity to subcultural-protest ones. Thus, civic identity acts as a determinant of both types of activity and is itself a moderator of the influence of the experience of parental civic participation on civic-political forms of activity. Conclusion As a result of the study, we can draw several conclusions: 1) the social activity of young people can be differentiated into two factors, covering about 60% of the total variance: socially constructive civil-political and closed subcultural-protest ones; 2) civic identity is the leading determinant of commitment to activity of both types, but the direction of determination is the opposite. As a result of structural modelling, it was found that civic identity has a positive impact on social activity in the civic-political field and a negative impact on subcultural-protest activity; 3) the intolerance to monotony plays a positive role in the subcultural protest activity of young people, while the feeling of uncertainty undermines the manifestations of civic and political activity; 4) the study also revealed an important role of socialisation conditions. The commitment to activity of two types is determined by its different effects: the participation of parents in the public life of the country contributes to civic and political activity and the formation of civic identity of their children; 5) under certain circumstances, civic and political activity of Russian youth can become a factor of commitment to protest and subcultural forms of activity. Expressed civic identity acts as a stabilizing factor, since it is associated with decreased manifestation of the feeling of uncertainty and the search for new experiences of Russian youth. The results of the study can be useful in the practice of involving young people in civic participation. It is necessary to take into account the fact that its various forms can be attended by risks not only associated with the multiple activities of young people but also with their seeking for sensations or intolerance to monotony. Civic (national) identity is also an important point. It is quite possible that autonomous, regional identity can come into conflict with it, which can also easily transform some forms of activity into others. The limitations of the study are related to the sample size, covering only two regions of provincial Russia, and a shallow penetration into the conditions of youth socialization, which can turn out to be a very significant factor in activity. In particular, it would be desirable to include questions about the type of educational environment, hobbies, travels, interests and attitudes towards various actions; to analyse attitudes associated with supporting certain forms of activity and abandoning them. Subsequent studies may include such components, as well as the motivation for inclusion of/refusal from civic participation, which would make it possible to understand the fine psychological setting towards the corresponding forms of social activity, including their change or replacement.

About the authors

Rail M. Shamionov

Saratov Chernyshevsky State University

Author for correspondence.
Email: shamionov@mail.ru
83 Astrakhanskaya St, Saratov, 410012, Russian Federation

Doctor Sc. of Psychology, Professor, is Head of the Chair of Social Psychology of Education and Development

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