adolescence myth busting

this is a great article on a variety of myths about adolescence, including:
– the myth that teenagers are more sexually active than ever, and at younger ages
– the myth that all teenagers are more highly stressed by their schedules than ever
– the myth that boys are falling behind in school

it focuses on the first of those myths (“teens are, in truth, having sex less and later than they did a decade or two ago”). here’s a snippet (but it’s a short article, and you should click through and read the whole thing):

In each of these examples, real problems – that some girls are engaging in too-young, risky and degrading sex, that some children are being stressed excessively and stifled by nonstop structure, that some boys (poor and minority boys) are doing badly in school, that some children are getting really reckless mental health services – are grossly simplified and, via the magical thinking of dogma and ideology, are elevated to the level of myth. Real complexities and nuances – details concerning exactly which children are suffering, flailing or failing, and in what numbers, and how and why, and what we can do about it – are lost.

we youth workers have perpetuated many of these myths, i think, in part, because it justifies our existence. this article is cause for pause, i think.

do you think there are other myths we perpetuate?

(ht to ypulse)

5 thoughts on “adolescence myth busting”

  1. On the face of it, I’d say that we tend not to worry too much about the source of some of our information and we don’t think hard about what we read or hear.
    For instance, in the article that was cited to begin this disucssion the author gives virtually no facts to back up her contentions about rampant teen sexuality being a myth. But her thoughts are based primarily on a NY Times article of January 26, 2009. After reading this article the following should be noted:
    1- The only fact in the entire article which substantially supported the original author’s claim is that the percentage of teens in high school who have had sex has dropped from 54.1% in 1991 to 47.8% in 2007. Keep in mind this figure only relates to sexual intercourse among teens, so it doesn’t truly speak to whether teens are engaging in other risky sexual behaviors more frequently.
    2- Every other relevant statistic in the article was based on studies that are 6 years(!) or older. Which, of course, cannot begin to give us an accurate picture of what is happening today.
    3- Regarding oral sex the NY Times article states that there hasn’t been enough long term data collected to determine trends, and says that the most recent figures are not “as alarming” as some people report and then goes on to state that 16% of teens who have NOT had intercourse admit to having engaged in oral sex. That would be 1 in 7.
    3- The the original article upon which this disucssion is based gave a link (to an article about another supposed myth) entitled “Abstinence only sex ed clearly clearly does not help in combating teen pregnancy.” This link takes you to another NY Times article, which I read in its entirety and discovered that it barely touches on what what the link claimed and it in no way gives any statistical facts to support the premise that abstinence programs don’t work.
    So yes- we as youth workers tend to simply pass on all kinds of untrue bits of information, some of which get turned into “myths.” But that happens mainly because we don’t take the time to check our sources and we don’t carefully think through what we read and hear.

  2. Reading my previous post, I realized that some may interpret my tone as angry or snippy. Just wanted to assure you that’s not what was on my mind. In fact, I was laughing as I composed it because it is ironic to me that in talking about perpetuating myths, we are about to kick-off a brand new one (if we regard the original article as being factual).

  3. Marko– nonetheless, what you’re trying to bring out is true: that we tend to simply take things at face value and often times perpetuate ideas that really have no basis in reality. I think one of those myths as youth workers is that parents don’t really want to be involved with their teen’s spirituality. The truth, in my opinion, is that as youth workers we have not worked hard enough to center our ministries around the family.

  4. Our jobs as youth workers aren’t to curb trends of sin but to introduce Jesus to teenagers and allow His in-living-ness to reign in their lives. It is unfortunate that moral issues are used to justify the existence of youth workers. I told myself as soon as my job becomes about making kids more moral I’ll have to leave my job. If teenagers become more moral it is because Jesus is living through them not because they’ve learned how to follow rules.

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