Becoming and Remaining an Activist: A Qualitative Study of Animal and Disability Rights Activism among Older Youth
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Drawing on past research findings, this qualitative research study explored seven early childhood (i.e., distal) and current (i.e., proximal) factors self-reported by older youth as being important in shaping their personal life course toward becoming and remaining involved in the animal rights movement: 1) education, 2) gender, 3) lifestyle, 4) parental involvement, 5) first event, 6) empathy, and 7) collective identity. This research study also adopted a comparative lens and explored the similarities and differences in responses between older youth who engaged in animal and dis/ability rights activism. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with six animal rights activists and six dis/ability rights activists ranging in age from 21 – 30 years and Bronfenbrenner’s Bioecological Model of Human Development was applied. The qualitative research findings revealed that in terms of distal factors that are associated with becoming an animal rights activist the participants reported that education, gender, first events, parental involvement, lifestyle, and empathy were all significant factors. Proximally, the participants reported that education, lifestyle, empathy, and collective identity were significant factors associated with remaining an animal rights activist. The comparative analyses revealed the following five factors as relevant to understanding engagement in animal versus dis/ability rights activism: collective identity, first event, parental involvement, empathy, and gender. Unexpected themes were also revealed that help to explain some of the current challenges (i.e., problems within the movement) and benefits (i.e., intersectionality) that participants experience in the animal rights movement.