‘Democracy always comes first’: Adolescents’ views on decision-making in everyday life and political democracy

H. Nieuwelink, P. Dekker, F. Geijsel, G. ten Dam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Research shows adolescents to be positively oriented towards democracy, but little is known about what it actually means to them and what their views are on decision-making in both everyday situations and political democracy. To gain insight into these aspects of adolescents’ democratic views, we have interviewed 40 Dutch adolescents from second grade of different types of high school. Potential conflict between various democratic principles prevalent in everyday life situations was discussed and compared to how they view decision-making in political democracy. The results of our qualitative study showed that adolescents’ views on issues concerning collective decision-making in everyday situations are quite rich and reflect different models of democracy (majoritarian, consensual, and deliberative). Moreover, how adolescents deal with tensions between democratic principles in everyday life situations varies. While some adolescents combine several principles (for instance, majority rule as a last resort after trying to find broader consensus), other adolescents tend to strictly focus on only one of these principles. Adolescents’ views on political democracy, however, are rather limited and one-dimensional. Those adolescents who seemed to have a more explicit picture of political democracy often preferred a strict focus on majority rule, neglecting minority interests.
KEYWORDS: Political socialization, adolescents, decision-making, democratic views, civic engagement
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)990-1006
JournalJournal of Youth Studies
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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