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Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Judith Hoorn

First Committee Member

Linda Webster

Second Committee Member

Thomas Nelson

Third Committee Member

Hossein Moftakhar


This study examines late adolescent sociopolitical identity formation. Research questions examined how 18–20 year old adolescents think about their development, conceptualize their time and place in history, and understand social and political topics. Using cultural and narrative psychology perspectives, interview items addressed three topics: growing up in changing times; living history; and understanding political concepts. Special attention was given to student reflections on the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and their aftermath. Ten late adolescents, 18–20 years of age and students at a community college, were interviewed on two occasions for a total of approximately three hours. Responses were analyzed utilizing qualitative approaches drawn from the biographical and phenomenological traditions. Individual profiles were created based upon each student's interview, making extensive use of the students' narratives. Cross-participant responses were analyzed for related items. In this study of sociopolitical identity, it was found that: these adolescents conceptualize national and international events from the perspective of their personal, lived experience. Second, students' knowledge of political concepts was limited. In contrast, students' political interest and affect was high. Third, most students had a strong desire to contribute to and influence their society in a positive way, but had yet to find a means of doing so. Fourth, students exhibited a multicultural and multinational orientation. It was evident that these students experience a world that transcends national boundaries. Fifth, it was found that student attitudes and affects in the aftermath of the September 11 th terrorist attacks were characterized by fear, anxiety, and empathy for the victims and their families. The event and subsequent developments were seen as changing life irreparably, and students reported uncertainty about the impact of these historical periods on their future prospects. Recommendations to psychologists and educators include encouraging and building upon adolescents' sociopolitical affect and interest and providing service learning experiences in the public schools. Also, helping adolescents and young adults conceptualize their activities and interests in a sociopolitical framework, and encouraging a narrative that speaks to the social and political nature of their lived experience is strongly suggested. Further studies that examine late adolescent sociopolitical narratives are recommended.



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