Hogeschool van Amsterdam

Kenniscentrum Onderwijs en Opvoeding

‘Democracy always comes first.’ Adolescents’ views on democracy and decision making.

Wetenschappelijk artikel

Research shows adolescents to be positively-oriented towards democracy, but little is known about their meanings of decision-making in both everyday situations and formal 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 were discussed and related to decision-making in formal democratic institutions. 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, between and within the distinguished models, the extent to which adolescents take different democratic principles into account 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 formal democracy, however, are rather limited and unstratified. Those adolescents who seemed to have more understanding of formal democratic structures often preferred a strict focus on majority rule, neglecting minority interests.


Nieuwelink, H., Dekker, P., Ten Dam, G., & Geijsel, F. (2014). ‘Democracy always comes first.’ Adolescents’ views on democracy and decision making. Submitted.

Gepubliceerd door  Centre for Applied Research in Education 3 juni 2015