Motivation and Commitment to Activism
Engagement in sociopolitical activism, such as protesting, has important implications for youth of color and for the communities in which they live (Ballard & Ozer, 2016; Ginwright, 2010; Hope & Spencer, 2017). Critical Consciousness (CC; Freire, 1970/1998; Watts et al., 2011) and Youth Sociopolitical Development Theory (Youth SPD; Watts & Flanagan, 2007) are two prominent frameworks for investigating sociopolitical activism among youth of color. Although both frameworks position motivation as one of the key factors influencing youth activism, motivation is narrowly defined as a single construct—one’s sense of efficacy to effect change. Using motivation constructs from two established motivation frameworks, Self-Determination Theory (SDT; Deci & Ryan, 2008; Ryan & Deci, 2000) and Regulatory Focus Theory (RFT; Higgins, 1997), this dissertation investigated the multidimensional nature of motivation in relation to Black and Latinx adolescents’ commitment to activism. Drawing from a longitudinal data set examining Black and Latinx adolescents’ civic development over four years of high school (N = 733), I used group differential approaches (latent profile analysis, latent profile transition analysis, and latent profile moderation) to (a) identify distinct combinations of motivations among Black and Latinx high school students in ninth, tenth, and twelfth grade, (b) assess whether and the extent to which adolescents changed profile membership across high school, (c) examine motivation profiles in tenth grade as predictors of commitment to activism in twelfth grade, and (d) examine motivation profiles in tenth grade as moderators of the relation between adolescents’ analysis of social problems in tenth grade and their commitment to activism addressing these problems in twelfth grade (controlling for their initial commitment to activism). I identified two motivation profiles in ninth grade, four motivation profiles in tenth grade, and four motivation profiles in twelfth grade. At both tenth and twelfth grade, I named the motivation profiles: “Low Motivation,” “High Motivation,” “Moderate Motivation, Low Autonomy,” and “Moderate Motivation, High Autonomy.” At both time points, the “Low Motivation” profile comprised the smallest proportion of the sample and the “Moderate Motivation, High Autonomy” profile comprised the largest proportion of the sample. Most youth shifted to a different motivation profile over time. Adolescents in the “High Motivation” profile at the end of tenth grade reported the highest average commitment to activism at the end of twelfth grade; however, this number was only statistically significantly higher than the “Moderate Motivation, Low Autonomy” profile. Contrary to expectations, youths’ social analysis in tenth grade was not predictive of their commitment to activism in twelfth grade; thus, there was no latent profile moderation in relation to social analysis and commitment to activism. Instead, I did find evidence that motivation profile membership moderated the relation between commitment to activism at the end of tenth grade on commitment to activism at the end of twelfth grade. Overall, results suggest that adolescents’ motivation is multidimensional and incredibly dynamic. Future CC/Youth SPD research should consider investigating a more complete set of established motivation constructs in relation to youths’ sociopolitical development.