The Kids Are Alright

Contrary to popular belief, this generation of Americans is among the most well behaved and law abiding in decades, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics cited by the Washington Post:

In absolute terms, arrests (like crime) are as expected consistently concentrated among the young at each historical time point. But surprisingly, the drop in the arrest rate over time is entirely accounted for by the current generation of young adults, who are busted 23 percent less frequently than prior generations were at their age. Remarkably, despite the national drop in overall crime and arrest rates, the arrest rate among older Americans is higher than it was 20 years ago. This holds for adults ages 40 to 54 (a 9 percent increase) and even more so for adults age 55 and older (a 12 percent increase). The baby boomers, who drove the American crime explosion in their youth, are apparently continuing to outdo prior generations in their late-life criminality.


…Presuming that like prior generations millennials carry their crime-related habits forward as they age, the country could soon see an acceleration of the recent trend toward reduced incarceration as millennials replace their more crime-prone elders in the population.

Meanwhile, the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey, conducted biannually by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) since 1991, has found a marked decline in various other social ills that were once prevalent among past generations generations of youth  — including the often Millennial-bashing boomers. sums up the data thusly: “today’s teens smoke less, drink less, and have sex less than the previous generation. They are, comparatively, a mild-mannered bunch…”

Indeed, only 10.8 percent of teens smoke cigarettes, compared to nearly a third in the 1990; they are 46 percent less likely to binge drink alcohol compared to teens twenty years ago, and 21 percent less likely to have even tried alcohol; and only 2.3 percent of teenage girls become pregnant, compared to more than double the percentage ten years ago. They are also less likely to bring weapons to class, get into a physical fight, contemplate suicide, to forget to put on their seatbelt.

Yet despite such relative timidity and good behavior, today’s youth are commonly perceived to be among the most rambunctious, self indulgent and ill disciplined of any generation in American history. For example, teen pregnancy is widely perceived to be on the rise when it has in fact declined to historic lows. And I imagine most readers are familiar with the regular barrage of articles, opinion pieces, memes, and social media rants about the various alleged improprieties of teens and college students.

To be sure, it is not as if young people are without faults — no generation, young or old, past or present, has been perfect. But by and large the kids are alright, and whatever real or imagined moral or social failings they display must be looked at in the larger historical context: younger generations have always been overly scrutinized by their elders, and have always developed or embraced new ideas, habits, and lifestyles that cause some measure of anxiety and apprehension among the older folks who are unfamiliar with them. I think social media has gone a long way towards amplifying the extent to which isolated but ultimately mundane instances of misbehavior are occurring.

What are your thoughts?




Some Fast Facts About Millennials

Around 80 percent of the Millennial Generation’s parents didn’t go to college, and 60 percent of them grew up in households making less than $50,000 in inflation-adjusted dollars. Millennials are the most educated generation in American history, yet the only group for whom real wages fell years after the recession began. So contrary to popular belief, most young people aren’t living spoiled or self-indulgent lives (at least any more so than previous generations of youth).

Young people currently have a 15 percent unemployment rate, which is actually normal: since the 1970s, youth unemployment has consistently been about twice the national average regardless of economic conditions. With an overall unemployment rate of around seven percent, young people are just as “idle” as they’ve always been in recent history — if anything, they’re working much harder given that most of their jobs pay lower than ever.

So let’s stop heaping so much scorn on a generation that’s suffering from economic and political forces that were — and remain largely — outside their control. Millennials have their problems, as every generation has, but this pervasive caricature of them as naive and narcissistic brats who are failing America is untrue and counterproductive. Young people have enough problems to deal with, which they’ve largely inherited from previous generations, without having the added anxiety that comes with so much pressure and blame.

Besides, the problems facing this country and the world at large will require everyone to come together. As cliche as that sounds, it’s a fact that can’t be ignored, especially by the older folks who still hold the reigns of economic and political power.

[Note that there is no clear date which the Millennial Generation began or ended; it generally applies to anyone born between the 1980s and the early 2000s.]

Source: The Atlantic


Parents and the Issue of Teenage Sex

Courtesy of Slate, we take a look at how one society typically approaches the rather awkward issue of young people having sex.

Sleepovers have been normalized in the Netherlands for decades now, and as social scientist Amy Schalet’s research suggests, the results have been generally positive. By demonstrating acceptance and respect for their kids’ relationships, Dutch parents, on average, enjoy more communication with their kids about sex and relationships than American parents do, which in turn means the kids are more likely to get the health care and education they need to prevent STIs and unwanted pregnancy. Subsequently, the teenage pregnancy rate in the Netherlands is nearly four times lower than ours.

Schalet also discovered that the Dutch way helped minimize negative stereotyping about gender, love, and sexuality. In the U.S., there’s a tendency to see sex as a battle between boys and girls, with parents falling for “the stereotype that all boys want the same thing, and all girls want love and cuddling.” But because Dutch parents respect teenage relationships, they have a more holistic view, understanding that most young people of any gender want a combination of both.

As usual, it seems that taking the more open-minded and communicative route is the most effective. Demonizing and restricting sex has historically never had much of a positive impact, and this is borne out by empirical evidence.


The Workings of the Adolescent Brain

As neurology, psychology, and other social scientific disciplines advance and mature – namely through the help of new technology – we’re learning and more about the elusive workings of our own mind.

With that knowledge comes – albeit in fits and starts – an improved ability to work with one another and with ourselves. Once we realize that much of our behavior is shaped by forces beyond our control, we learn to appreciate the nuances and complexities of human nature. We learn that evil, ignorance, fallibility, hypocrisy, and other negative traits have at least some basis in our biology – thus we must confront them from a scientific framework that acknowledges their innateness and treats them as conditions to be understood and treated, rather than simply stamped out or punishment.

This is why I try to have patience with people, be they children, teens, elders, or adults. It’s hard to accept sometimes, but there are clearly certain deterministic biological factors that make some of our behaviors inevitable. This doesn’t mean we should excuse or accept such behavior, but rather that we must around it and adapt to it while the person (hopefully) grows out of it with time and experience. It’s easier said than done, but we were all there once, and responding negatively hardly helps matter — although research suggests that arguing with teens can ultimately be fruitful for their development in the long-term. Maybe we’re just supposed to go through the motions rather than try to fix everything.