GSE Publications

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Journal Article

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Publication Source

Applied Developmental Science





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This article examines the problem of national and civic detachment among American youth. Using a developmental theoretical framework that integrates the ecological aspects of development with the phenomenological experiences of the developing individual, I argue that young Americans have difficulty developing an attachment to their identity as Americans due to contradictory experiences had between daily events and communicated perspectives and beliefs about America. The espoused story of America contains historical distortions, which we set as socializing adults and the collective context for youth development. Youth changes require that adults first confront the noted distortions in our own understanding of America before imposing American identity expectations on our youth. In order to do this, I propose that American society needs forums for civil discourse that can occur among groups with shared social experiences, to address these distortions in a safe space before engaging with those who have a different perspective on and experience with American society.

Copyright/Permission Statement

This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in Applied Developmental Science, 2011 copyright Taylor & Francis, available online at:


Dr. Margaret Beale Spencer is an emerita professor of the University of Pennsylvania.


Date Posted: 08 April 2015

This document has been peer reviewed.