Civic developmental theory anticipates connections between normative developmental competencies and civic engagement, but little previous research has directly studied such links. The current study sought to contribute to civic development theory by examining associations between emotional and sociocognitive competencies (empathy, emotion regulation, prosocial moral reasoning, future-orientation) and civic engagement (volunteering, informal helping, political behaviors and beliefs, environmental behaviors, social responsibility values, civic skills). Data came from a geographically and racially diverse sample of 2467 youth (Mage = 13.4, Range: 8-20 years, 56% female). The results indicated that empathy and future-orientation significantly predicted nearly all forms of civic engagement, whereas emotion regulation and prosocial moral reasoning were uniquely associated with specific forms of civic engagement. Exploratory multi-group models indicated that empathy and emotion regulation were more strongly associated with civic engagement among younger youth and prosocial moral reasoning and future-orientation were more strongly related to civic engagement among older youth. The findings help to advance developmental theory of youth civic engagement.
Keywords: Civic engagement; Developmental theory; Political participation; Positive youth development; Prosocial behavior.