Adultism Threatens Potential of Youth

ently the target of age-based biases. This prejudice against young people, often accompanied by systematic or social discrimination, is known as “adultism.” Adultism is inherently damaging; it’s the restriction and unfair treatment of the youth, and it has deep and relevant implications.

The term “adultism” was first described in a 1978 article written by psychologist Jack Flasher. In it, he examines “the abuse by adults of the power they have over children.” He states that adults can see youth as “so different that they constitute a separate species,” allowing them to create a false reality “in order to gain unfair power over them.” He adds that “minors tend to be seen … as inferior [to adults], rather than as unique persons.” He then connects his research on adultism to harmful habits, such as drug or alcohol abuse. When youth are shut down or diminished by adults — considered role models — it has a much more damaging effect.

This is especially relevant given that our future lies in the hands of the youth, and that their upbringing lies in the hands of older generations. Parental influence, as well as the influence of teachers or other older role models, is a great power. When youth are treated as though they’re beneath “adults,” it teaches them that they are. When youth are treated as mature, independent, and capable, they are more likely to grow to become just that. Flasher explains that adultism may be expressed in ways that inhibit the “constructive evolution of [their] potential.” Adults must effectively raise the next generation, and adultism is an inhibitor of this.

Adultism can also restrain the wellbeing of our political world. The age restrictions for various government positions are seemingly arbitrary numbers; 35 for President, 30 for Senate, 25 for the House, and the Supreme Court has no age restrictions. In recent years, the minimums have been a highly debated topic, especially following Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s rise to political fame and power. At 30 years old, Ocasio-Cortez is too young to run for President, which many Democrats are angered by. In this case, the five-year difference is in no way a measure of Ocasio-Cortez’s experience and ability. Both Ocasio-Cortez and our entire country are suffering at the hands of this historical and systematic form of adultism.

Adultism is something we as students run into in our everyday lives, but it’s also something we witness in our larger cultures and societies. It’s an obstacle to young people’s freedom and ability to change and develop, and can negatively impact the growth of the newest generations. As youth, we must be aware of the ways adultism appears in our lives and our own responses to it. Do not let older generations limit our way of thinking or existing; we are capable, mature, and strong, and we must care for the world better than “the adults” have.

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