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Adultism is the assumption that young people are inferior to adults simply because of their young age. Adults often act on this assumption by limiting our access to decision-making, information, resources, human rights, and opportunities to voice our thoughts. As young people, we grew up hearing these comments or similar ones from teachers, parents, mentors, coaches and many other adults. It is not a surprise when young people grow up to be adults who are adultist towards the new generation of young people.


Adults can help by taking us more seriously and treating us like equals.

A host of negative or condescending beliefs about young people reinforce and justify the misuse of adult power. Teens are viewed as irrational and unpredictable troublemakers, or as vacuous and irresponsible, indifferent to anything but superficial concerns.

We may view children and teens as cute and charming, while belittling their concerns and needs, and overlooking their intelligence, insight and wisdom. Adultism is manifested in daily life by a range of subtle, ordinary and often unremarkable words and actions that serve to buttress adult privilege.

Adultism is often invisible for it is largely the norm for interactions between adults and young people in our society. Double standards for adults and young people are one example of adult privilege arising from adultism.

For example, when an adult politely disagrees or expresses an opinion they are likely to be considered assertive, whereas a young person doing the same may well be thought of as impertinent or difficult. That is just not appropriate for a school setting.

Or we may withhold information as another form of adult power, not sharing all the facts with students in order to increase the likelihood that students will make a decision that we prefer. Adultism exists on a continuum of manifestations of misused adult power, from the most subtle and normalized forms, to the most explicitly aggressive forms.

The most extreme and harmful example of adult dominance is violence and abuse against children and teens. Prev Next.

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Most of us are youth workers because we care about young people.


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This bulletin topic is Adultism , or the discrimination against and oppression of young people.


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