Impact of Political Violence, Social Trust, and Depression on Civic Participation in Colombia

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Abstract

Civic participation is important for peacebuilding and democratic development; however, the role of mental health has been largely overlooked by policy makers aiming to stimulate engagement in civil society. This study investigated antecedents of civic participation in Colombia, a setting of protracted political conflict, using bootstrapped mediation in path analysis. Past exposure to violence, experience with community antisocial behavior, and perceived social trust were all significantly related to civic participation. In addition, depression mediated the impact of past exposure to political violence and perceived social trust, but not community antisocial behavior, on civic participation. In this context, findings challenged depictions of helpless victims and instead suggested that when facing greater risk (past violence exposure and community antisocial behavior), individuals responded in constructive ways, taking on agency in their communities. Social trust in one’s neighbors and community also facilitated deeper engagement in civic life. Relevant to the mediation test, interventions aiming to increase civic participation should take mental health into account. Limitations and possible future research are discussed.

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