Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Why Do Youth Join Social Movements?

Why does any person join, or enlist, in groups, organizations, and movements?

Every person, to some degree, feels a need to be part of a social context, to be part of a social milieu larger than oneself. Otherwise, a person may feel his or her life has diminished meaning.

Indeed, purposeful and productive group membership provides individuals with feelings of dignity and fidelity. These twin feelings of self-worth and membership in something larger than oneself are necessary for a fulfilled life. Without such grounding in social contexts, the isolated person can fall into feelings of anomie, with its potentials for self and socially destructive behavior.

Youth, in particular, are searching for values, structure, and purpose to give meaning and dignity to their lives. The search for self-esteem, respect from others, and dignity is most strongly felt during the transition from family to autonomous adulthood.

Moreover, youths who encounter difficulties making this transition are likely to feel increasing pressure to identify groups, organizations or social movements in which they may yet find success. It is worth noting that the availability of employment opportunities in a youth's immediate environment is a critical context factor.

Indeed, youth who fail to complete high school, and who then find employment opportunities and needed self esteem beyond their reach, can be drawn to organizations and social movements that make promises of ready access to means of heroic self esteem.

You can read more about why youth enlist in organizations and social movements and the twin factors of dignity and fidelity in my 2006 article "Why Do Youth Enlist? Identification of Underlying Themes" in Armed Forces & Society, Volume 32, Number 2, pages 307-328.

 Copyright © 2014 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.