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Psychological Bulletin




Critical consciousness refers to an individual’s awareness of oppressive systemic forces in society, a sense of efficacy to work against oppression, and engagement in individual or collective action against oppression. In the past few decades, interest in critical consciousness as a resource that may promote thriving in marginalized people has grown tremendously. This article critically examines the results of a systematic review of 67 studies of critical consciousness in children and adolescents, published between 1998 and 2019. Across these studies, major themes included the role of socialization experiences, relationships, and context in the development of critical consciousness. In addition, critical consciousness was associated with a number of adaptive developmental outcomes, including career-related, civic, social–emotional, and academic outcomes—especially for marginalized youth. However, our analysis highlights several critical gaps in the literature. We highlight the need for further delineation of the impacts of parent and peer socialization on critical consciousness in specific developmental periods and for studying critical consciousness at multiple levels of the ecological system. We further note the dearth of rigorous experimental or quasi-experimental studies in the area of interventions to promote critical consciousness. In addition, we note that developmental questions—questions about the nature and function of critical consciousness over time—are largely unanswered in the literature, including questions about how critical consciousness manifests and develops during childhood. Leveraging the findings of our systematic review, we outline key next steps for this rapidly growing area of research.



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Heberle, A., Rapa, L. & Farago, F. (2020). Critical consciousness in children and adolescents: A systematic review, critical assessment, and recommendations for future research. Psychological Bulletin, 146(6), 525-551.


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