What’s Really Wrong With Young People Today: Juvenoia
March 12, 2014
Every generation believes that the generation before was too rigid and conservative—and the generation after too wild and out-of-control.
The perplexing case of Rachel Canning, an 18-year old New Jersey teen who is suing her estranged parents for private high school and college tuition and living expenses has achieved national attention. The case is a heartbreaking example of a family in which communication has collapsed and animosity has tragically replaced the warmth we should all expect from our families. It also seems, on the surface, to be a private matter. So why then has it gotten such national attention? The answer, I suspect, lies in the widespread aversion many older adults feel toward juveniles and how “entitled” youth appear to be, at least in the eyes of the old.
I suspect that this case and the attention it has garnered is another example of juvenoia. Juvenoia, a term usually credited to sociologist David Finkelhor, refers to the fear of juveniles by older adults. Juvenoia is manifest in a multitude of ways, including the belief that today’s youth are worse behaved than ever before, despite much evidence to the contrary. Many older adults continue to think that youth violence is the worst ever, for instance, despite the fact that it stands now at only about 12% of what it was just two decades before. But in the current case, many comments have focused on how “entitled” Rachel Canning is, implying that this is part of a greater trend in the current generation of youth.
Like many adults I’m not a big fan of the “everyone gets a trophy” movement over the past few decades. Honest feedback, discipline and structure are good for children, as is competition in the spirit of good sportsmanship. Giving them everything they want when they want it certainly isn’t. But the idea that youth today are any more entitled than in the past is, at best, debatable. Although some psychologists have claimed there is a “narcissism epidemic” among today’s youth, other psychologists have countered that the evidence for this is weak.
Indeed, comments by older adults that today’s youth are more entitled than previous generations go back at least to the ancient Greeks. My read of the data is closer to the skeptical view: most such claims are more indicative of the griping of older adults than anything “new” about today’s teens. Sure, some teens feel entitled, but that’s always been the case. But stories such as Rachel Canning’s lawsuit fit into those narratives and provide more fuel for juvenoia. What should be a private family matter becomes fodder for the perennial intergenerational squabbling.
Juvenoia also exerts itself in a variety of moral panics focused on youth. We constantly hear about how teens are up to new forms of mischief our older generations would never have thought of. Most of these tales end up being false. Recent examples include the “rainbow party” in which teen girls supposedly provided oral sex to multiple boys and the “knockout king” game in which young (usually minority) males supposedly target random people for assaults. Certainly in a country of over 300 million, some teens do dangerous and risky things (as do some adults), but evidence for any new mass trends in teen sex or violence is absent. These tales of wayward youth are the stuff of urban legend, not fact.
Juvenoia also manifests in the routine disparagement of youth culture. From Elvis Presley to rap music to video games, older adults are quick to blame youth culture for perceived social problems, often forgetting that the media valued in their own youth was similarly disparaged. I call this the “Goldilocks Effect” — every generation’s belief that the generation before was too rigid and conservative, and the generation after too wild and out-of-control. Each generation thinks it got culture “just right.”
Even science can get in on the juvenioa. Most recent have been the brain imaging findings that note our brains continue to develop through adolescence and into adulthood…and until we’re dead, really. Some research suggests that these differences are quite adaptive, but, nonetheless much of the narrative on this has been misused to portray teens as zombified hedonistic fools unable to restrain their least impulse.
Teens and young adults remain one group of people that can be publicly disparaged with almost no condemnation. Some of the anti-youth rhetoric gets wrapped up in language about “protecting” our youth. But a vein of true loathing runs through much of the discussion. And until we’re honest about that it will continue to produce urban legends and junk science.
Christopher J. Ferguson is associate professor and department chair of psychology at Stetson University.
What's Wrong With Youth Today?
Denying the problem is not going to change things
Jean M Twenge Ph.D.
The Narcissism Epidemic
Posted Mar 26, 2012
Saying that today’s young generation—known as Millennials or Generation Me—is disengaged and less concerned about the environment was bound to create some controversy, and it did.
I wanted to do a large study of generational differences on these issues partially because I’d seen so many books and consultants make bold statements such as “People born between 1982 and 2000 are the most civic-minded since the generation of the 1930s and 1940s. Other generations were reared to be more individualistic. This civic generation has a willingness to put aside some of their own personal advancement to improve society.“ That’s a quote from Morley Winograd and Mike Hais, authors of Millennial Makeover.
So when analyses on nationally representative samples of 9 million young people since 1966 suggested the opposite was true—civic engagement is actually lower among the 1982-1999 born group they call Millennials—Winograd and Hais fired back.
However, very little of what they said was true—I’ll get back to that in a moment.
Their blog links to a statement from a pro-environmental group saying “This study is appalling, and completely demeans the very real work that today’s young people are doing on the environment.” Since the results are based on two large datasets I didn’t administer, this seemed odd—would they say a Gallup Poll “demeans” people? Perhaps they should, because Gallup polls show the same decline in interest in environmental issues that we found.
They go on to note the many young people who participated in various action campaigns for the environment. But that does nothing to undermine the data, which is based on generational differences in young people’s average responses. These young people are clearly the exception—perhaps part of the 4% Christian Smith found in his survey who were truly civically engaged. In addition, they don’t mention the many young people who were involved in environmental action campaigns or who said it was an important issue in the 1970s and 1990s. You can’t make a generational comparison if you only have examples from one generation. And overall it makes no sense for a pro-environment group to criticize the study—why not instead use it as a rallying point, to show how much work needs to be done?
So: Why doesn’t Winograd and Hais’ critique hold water?
Their main argument is that we should look at behaviors instead of attitudes, but many of the items we analyzed—including the environmental items you focused on—are about behaviors: For example, saving energy, taking action to help the environment, writing to public officials, working for a political campaign, and donating to charity. Those items show the same declines, and often larger declines, than the items about attitudes.
They then mention the high voter turnout of Millennials. However, Millennial youth voter turnout isn’t much different than GenX voter turnout. For example, among those 18-29, voter turnout was 23% in 2002, 26% in 2006, and 24% in 2010. The Pew study found that the youth turnout in 2009 and 2010 was low not just in absolute terms but relative to older voters. Thus I did not make the mistake they said I did about comparing turnout in presidential vs. non-presidential years.
Their argument about regional differences in the validation study for the life goals items—which was not the generational comparison but done to discover the meaning of the items—is ridiculous. The questions weren't related to region, so there's no reason to believe that the responses would be any different on another campus. The vast majority of psychology studies are done on one campus.
More important: Validating the items against more established psychological scales using a sample of young people is infinitely better than not validating the items at all. They seem to be suggesting it would be better to not take this step and thus not have any mechanism for understanding what the items on the surveys mean. Under this theory, it would be better for everyone to guess what they mean, or interpret them in the way that best fits their biases. That is exactly what we wanted to avoid, which is why we collected data from young people to see which items correlated with scales known to be reliable and valid.
It’s even more ridiculous to title a post “Do You Think All Millennials Go To San Diego State?” when only the validation sample—done to help interpret the items and not the source of the generational data—went to SDSU. The generational findings were based on two nationally representative samples of young people: the Monitoring the Future study of high school students and the American Freshman study of entering college students. This adds up to 9 million young people over time, and, since SDSU does not participate in the American Freshman survey, exactly none of them went to San Diego State.
They are right that the number who say they expect to volunteer in college is up—we reported that. What's funny is that this is an attitude instead of a behavior—expecting to volunteer is not the same as actually volunteering. So when it suits them, Winograd and Hais are more than willing to rely on items about attitudes instead of behaviors. The statistic they mention on actual volunteering starts in 2002, so it can't compare Millennial volunteering to that of previous generations. Recent studies such as this one find an increase in college student volunteering, but primarily due to course requirements. Non-required volunteering rose just a tiny amount, from 36% in 1995-1996 to 38% in 2007-2008. The good news: There was a large increase (from 9% in 2000 to 25% in 2008) in one-time, non-required community service. It’s not the whole scale change many had hoped for, but it’s certainly a bright spot amid the general decline in civic engagement.
Winograd and Hais end by saying that there’s no reason to believe that extrinsic values are any less meaningful than intrinsic values. This is not true. Tim Kasser and others have published numerous papers showing that individuals who favor extrinsic values over intrinsic values are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depressive symptoms. I wouldn't go so far as to make a "moral" judgment of these values—and didn't do so in the paper as they imply—but it's clear from the research that these values have implications for mental health.
Overall, the data from these two big surveys mean we finally have a good consensus on the generational shift: Like the larger culture, generations have become progressively more individualistic—more focused on the self and less on the community. This has big upsides, like tolerance and equality. But it also means more disengagement and less interest in social and community issues. Now that the data provide a reasonably clear picture of generational change, it seems important get to the real work: How to teach, manage, and mentor this young generation who will inherit the world.
Lady Gaga complained that the U.S. is allowing Iran and North Korea to get nukes and we have to stop them. Before the White House makes any decision, they’re waiting to hear from Britney Spears. - Jay Leno*******
Mafioso: Why Today's Youth Is Garbage
When I was just a boy many, many moons ago, boys were taught to be tough. Real toughness, not that garbage type of toughness you think you get by driving an SUV on rough terrain.
No. When I use the word "tough," I mean tough enough to get the crap kicked out of you and still be able to go to work the next day. Tough enough to go without food for three days and still be able to wrestle a freaking alligator if you had to. Tough enough to walk 10 miles in the freezing Illinois outback to bury a guy with your bare hands.
Now? Now young people think being tough is going a couple of hours without cable.
So what went wrong?
A lot went wrong. Somewhere, somehow, parents in the last two decades have bred weaklings, wimps and complainers. What future do we have when the "youts" of today have all the ambition of a sewer worker and the mental toughness of a finocchio interior designer?
Think I'm exaggerating? Think again, you stronzo. Sure, there are exceptions, and many of my young readers likely fall into that category, but one thing is inescapable: we've got the biggest bunch of spoiled brats that the human civilization has ever produced in North America. Let me make my case:
Problem No. 1
They're mentally weak
I already talked about today's youth being weak and lacking physical toughness. When I was young (along with many from my generation), I didn't need crutches, a hug from my father or to have every g**damn, meaningless accomplishment praised by someone in order to feel good about myself.
Today's youth will not hesitate to bitch and complain about how tough they have it. They lose a girlfriend; they turn into wet mops suited to clean prison toilets. They lose a job; they look for the nearest bridge. Someone insults them; they need counseling to get over the "emotional baggage." Don't you hate that? So do I. If any cafone ever says any crap like this in front of me, I will not hesitate for one second to break his legs. Not one.
Problem No. 2
They blame the older generation
Another dumb trait of today's young punks is their inability to take any responsibility for anything. They are never responsible for any of their mistakes, and the "older generation" is to blame for every crack whore, lost suit button and hurricane in the world.
And if you are a bum because you're lazy and useless and can't find a job, it's the baby boomers' fault. Right? If you know anyone like this, give them a message from me: "Get the hell out of this country before I really render you useless."
All this crap about the generations of the '60s, '70s and '80s destroying America's future is the biggest load of crap I've heard since John Gotti told a state court he was merely a plumber. Every generation lives in its moment. So what if people 20 years ago used big cars, wasted water like they had Niagara Falls in their backyard or dumped toxic waste next to where the ducks play with the fishes? We did it, and it was done. It's history. Get over it. And now they're doing things that people will surely bitch and complain about in another 20 years.
If you have to blame society for your own ineptitude (big word of the day), then you don't deserve to breathe the same air I do. Lose yourself in the desert. Blame no one but yourself for whatever life you've chosen for yourself.
Problem No. 3
They have no motivation and ambition
Today's youth doesn't want to change the world. They don't want to start a revolution or make the world a better place. They just want to listen to music only jackhammers would enjoy, break things and see how long they can ride on their parents' backs (or more appropriately wallets). With the exception of a select few, today's generation is content to just have a job, a place to live, a Honda Accord, and plenty of money to buy macaroni and cheese. They have no drive. Unless you force them to do something, they don't do anything. And the worst part? They don't seem to care — they have the motivation of a donkey.
Nobody wants to get their fingernails dirty. No one wants the unglamorous job. There are unemployment lines from that stretch from Miami to San Francisco, yet job openings in restaurants, farms, factories, and fishing boats go unfilled because no one wants to break a sweat on the job. Today's kids just want to prance around in their Dolce & Gabbana outfits and smoke cigarettes with Monica Bellucci look-alikes.
Problem No. 4
They're a "Me & Now" generation
Today's youth is all about me, me and me. How does this and that affect me and me alone?
They say to themselves: "I don't give a damn about what you think or how what I want affects you, I care only about myself."
"I'm a selfish prick and I don't care."
What's next? Are kids going to tell their parents not to take vacations when they retire because they're wasting away their future inheritance?
Another problem? They're all about right here, right now. They have no patience. It's instant this and instant that. They don't have any discipline; they can't even stick to a diet for more than two days. After all, that's too much work and time, why not just pop some pills or have daddy pay for some surgery to remove the fat and lard?
In my crew, the young Turks think they can became made men without earning their bones. They think that decades of tradition are going to be thrown out the window because they don't have the patience to earn their way into a Famiglia. "Butchering" jobs are a time-honored traditional ritual of making a name for yourself, earning respect and moving your way up in our Organization. But today's younger associates, they can't be bothered to get their Gucci sweatpants dirty, let alone some blood in their hair.
Problem No. 5
They're a society of victims
You get the impression that every single baby born after 1980 seems to be a victim of something. My espresso machine doesn't work; I'm a victim. My mother gave me too much food as a kid and made me fat; I'm a victim. My schoolteachers didn't support me when I was a clown in school; I'm a victim. Just shut the f*ck up.
The only thing that today's youth are victims of is their own stupidity. Yeah, yeah, it isn't everybody, but it's a lot of people.
When I was growing up, you were laughed out of your neighborhood if you ever called yourself a victim. If you fell down because someone didn't shovel his driveway, you got up and walked it off. Nowadays people call some rat injury lawyer schmuck before their asses hit the ground.
Problem No. 6
They have no respect for authority
One of the keys to my organization and any other legitimate business is respect for the hierarchy within a business. You don't talk back to people who sit on top of the volcano (mob term). The boss is the boss and you are not, so go back to your cubicle and shut up. Today's youth thinks that because they have some website called I'm-a-freaking-stronzo.com that everyone wants to hear their opinion. They talk back, they talk out of line and they talk more useless nonsense than my Aunt Maria.
Elders and people in positions of authority deserve respect. Today's youth seem to think that respect is not picking their nose when someone is talking to them.
Problem No. 7
They're welfare recipients
I hate taxes. My readers know this. But I can't escape paying some taxes, and as much as I hate it, I realize that someone has to pay for the roads and the nice parks where my mistresses and I "play." What I hate though, is how our welfare system works. We pay people to do nothing and be lazy. That's what welfare is. People get money and don't have to do anything to earn it. Many "youts" are discovering this little loophole in our great little country. I've always said that anyone on welfare should do some type of work during the week or risk not getting anything. Go clean dog crap off the floor, clean the vomit from public toilets. Do something to contribute to the world. Let the youth of America know there is no easy way out of life's tough blows. But never give money away for free — it's unearned and undeserved.
There are a few more reasons these cafones are garbage...
Problem No. 8
They have no etiquette
Not only do youths today have no respect for anyone, they have no etiquette either. They dress like bums, eat like bums and can't possibly begin to appreciate the finer things in life. They don't know the difference between Chianti and Cabernet, and the thought of wearing a suit is as foreign as Egypt. Maybe I'm old, but even as a 4 year old I would take off my hat when I sat at the dinner table. If I wasn't too good to do it, why should anyone be any different?
Problem No. 9
They like crappy music
A little more Sinatra and a little less Bloated Daddy, or whatever his name is, will go a long way. Have you heard any of the music young people listen to? You'd think Sodom and Gomorrah were still in full swing. No one is inspired by the crap they listen to; it's repulsing. It makes me sick. I need to open a bottle of scotch every time I accidentally hit the wrong dial on my radio and listen to that garbage. A little more Tony Bennett and a little less Toni Cool J MC.
So now that I've made my case, I'll offer a few solutions for any young parents who still have a chance to save their children, because unlike today's youth, I'm not a useless, selfish bum:
1- Be strict, be evenhanded, but never bend. Your rules are non-negotiable; make no exception with your kids and they will learn discipline. Never show weakness in front of them.
2- Make them suffer. Deny them things. Don't give them a single thing without them working for it, even a crappy $1,000 car. Make them earn the food you give them and the clothes on their backs.
3- Smack them around once in a while. I never forgot a good smacking. You don't need a belt, but a good slap across the face once in a while lets them know who's boss.
4- Drive them through the crappiest neighborhood you know. Let them hang out with bums and people on welfare when they are young, to traumatize them into never becoming like them.
It's scary where our children are headed, but with some good old-fashioned discipline, patience, motivation, and ambition, they can be saved. All right, that's enough for today.
Watch your backs and keep your noses clean.
Mr. Mafioso answers your e-mail
Editor's note: This reader's e-mail has not been edited and is presented as is.
I'm just mailing to ask you one question. Although your article is one of the only ones I truly enjoy on AskMen.com I have to ask you why: Why are you writing this article, giving thousands of people the upper hand? I am Italian, and very much of what your articles teach I have learned along the way, and I enjoy the fact that many people do not; therefore, it is very easy to get my way, plus I enjoy seeing people mess up. Another thing, I have some non-Italian acquaintances, (tutti gli uomini shemunitu) who study AskMen.com daily and approach me saying Italian words they have learned from your articles. Although from time to time it can be quite funny, several times a week of hearing mispronunciations and you know how it can become.
Enough of that, my real question is why do you enjoy imparting your knowledge with others? Besides probable monetary compensation.
Are you a religious man? I'm not either, but there is a story from the Bible that I remember about Jesus telling his disciples a fable about some farm owner who goes away on this trip and gives gold pieces to three of his slaves for safekeeping.
One slave spent the gold, one dug a hole in the ground and hid it, and one went out and doubled the gold. The farm owner came back one day and told off the two slaves who had spent the money or hid it. He praised the one who doubled his gold, saying he went out and did something with something he had.
Then Jesus compared it to his disciples and told them not to keep the word of God to themselves but to spread that truth to others, to spread the word to others and help God's work.
I never forgot that story. I promised myself one day I'd do like the slave who didn't hide the gold. I am trying to spread the truth as I know it. Taking my knowledge and spreading it to the world. Sure, we Italians can keep all of this information to ourselves, but that wouldn't make St. Peter happy, would it? Even if I am not religious, I always seek atonement for my sins. This is my atonement.
And by the way, what I do here, I do because I want to.
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