Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Aaron P Metzger

Committee Co-Chair

Amy Gentzler

Committee Member

Natalie Shook


The current study examined associations among adolescents' civic behaviors, sociomoral judgments, and welfare- and justice-oriented reasoning. Participants included 721 adolescents (Mage = 15.87, SD = 1.28; 90% Caucasian; 55.6% female) living in a University city in a Mid-Atlantic state. Participants completed survey questionnaires that assessed sociomoral judgments for and involvement in civic behaviors, as well as a free-response questionnaire that assessed justifications for various forms of civic engagement. Welfare-oriented reasoning was defined as justifications that reflected a sense of obligation to address the welfare of individuals in need, whereas justice-oriented reasoning was reflected in adolescents' use of structural justifications, which describe the potential for a behavior to implement systemic or macro-level change. Results indicated that justice-oriented reasoning, but not welfare-oriented reasoning, was associated positively with adolescent civic involvement. Additionally, justice-oriented reasoning was particularly integral to adolescent social movement behavior in that youth who viewed social movement as highly obligatory, important, and worthy of respect and used structural justifications were engaged in higher levels of social movement behavior than youth who viewed social movement as important for other reasons. The current findings provide nuanced insights into adolescents' developing understanding of civic behaviors and highlight the importance of investigating justice-oriented reasoning as a vital component of civic development.