Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science & Public Administration


Numerous studies in political socialization have suggested that the child's political world begins about the age of three and is basically- completed by age thirteen. Using this finding as a guideline, the author proposed in this study to determine at what age elementary school children develop a symbolic awareness of their government.

Based on a format similar to that used by Greenstein, Hess, and Easton, a study was made in the City of Grand Forks involving 951 children in grades one through six. To achieve representativeness and control, six elementary schools were selected based on socio-economic, philosophic, and religious variable.

Applying both the^normative and behavioral approaches , a series of twenty slides, containing four symbols each, was projected in mass to each classroom. Following the showing of each slide, the children were asked to respond by completing a standard answer form.

The first set of slides tested cognitive development by asking the children to identify personal and political party symbols. The second set involved the association of verbal and pictorial symbols with the symbol of the political community. The third set tested affective development in relation to abstract impersonal symbols. And the last set sought to solicit affective responses to the authoritative political symbols.

Results indicated that children were aware of many of the normative political symbols as early as grade one. Children in all grades could identify the President, but it was not until grade five that they could consistently identify the Vice President, Governor, and political party symbols. In regard to symbols of the political community, younger children identified more with personal symbols, while the older children identified with the impersonal symbols. In all cases children were able to discriminate American symbols from those of other nations.

In reference to the abstract impersonal symbols, it was found that nearly all children affectively identified with condensation symbols , more so than the civil rights symbols. Authoritative symbols were associated with specific authority figures in all grades. Finally, only minor differences were found between religious, philosophic, and socio-economic variables.