Millennials More Upright than Kids 20 Years Ago

No Goody Two Shoes?

No Goody Two Shoes?

Don’t let the body art fool you…. According to a new nationwide study released  by the Girl Scouts USA, kids today are more upstanding than their counterparts 20 years ago.

It’s easy to find research describing today’s Millennials. It’s harder to find research that compares them to young people of the same age in the past. What makes this new study by the Girl Scouts remarkable is that it is virtually identical to one fielded in 1989. (The study was conducted with Harris Interactive, formerly Louis Harris Inc., the same firm that worked on the 1989 study.) The new study involved a nationwide survey of 3,263 girls and boys from the third through twelfth grades. As with the earlier study, the questions ranged from ethics and diversity to civic involvement and peer pressure.
Comparing the results of the two studies, the researchers conclude there has been “a marked shift toward more ethical and responsible beliefs and values and civic involvement among teens and tweens“.
  • 62 percent surveyed in 2009 say they would not cheat on a test compared to about half in 1989.
  • 58 percent say they would refuse an alcoholic drink if offered one at a party compared to 46 percent in 1989.
  • Only 18 percent say they believe smoking is acceptable if a person finds it enjoyable. In 1989, more than a quarter  thought smoking was acceptable.
  • One third of teenagers say they intend to wait until they are married to have sex compared to less than a quarter (24 percent) in 1989.
  • 59% percent of teenagers agree with the statement, “Gay and lesbian relationships are OK, if that is a person’s choice.” Only 31 percent agreed in 1989.
  • 59 percent say that being around people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds is important to them. (This question was not asked in 1989.)
  • Compared to 20 years ago, youth today are more likely to say they intend to vote in the future (84 percent vs. 77 percent),
  • 76 percent say they will give to charity vs. 63 percent in 1989. Some 79 percent say they will volunteer in their communities.

The best news is that behavior seems to be lining up with reality. Teen births have dropped by almost a third since the beginning of the 1990s; drug use is down, voting is up.  Pretty soon, adults will have nothing to complain about when they talk about “kids today!”

None of this will come as news to Wendy Shalit, author of a book I read last year, “Girls Gone Mild” (which was recently republished as “The Good Girl Revolution: Young Rebels with Self-Esteem and High Standards”).  One of the more startling points in the book is that the mothers of many young women are more likely to be pushing their daughters to be more sexual than they themselves find comfortable. A New York Daily News op ed last summer she wrote in response to Miley Cyrus’ Vanity Fair appearance  was titled “Why Miley Cyrus is Stripping Down As She Is Growing Up.” She wrote:

“Ironically, it’s Miley’s younger fans who are acting more mature. They are screaming not for stilettos and cleavage but to hear her inspirational hit “The Climb,” which encourages them to be themselves and “keep the faith.” Despite all the self-serving banter about her “taking the wheel” by disrobing, the truth is that a confident, modest Miley would be far more rebellious than a Miley who takes the usual route of pornification.”

What do you think? Are young people today more clean cut than their parents were?