What’s the matter with kids today? Not that much, actually

A new study may surprise you:

By several noteworthy measures, today’s teenagers are growing increasingly conservative. While marijuana use has recently had an uptick, teenagers are smoking far less pot than their parents did at the same age. In 1980, about 60 percent of high-school seniors had tried marijuana and 9 percent smoked it daily. Among seniors today, according to the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey, which has tracked teenage risk behaviors since 1975, 45.5 percent have tried the drug and 6.6 percent are smoking it frequently.

Adolescent use of alcohol, tobacco and most illegal drugs is also far lower than it was 30 years ago. In 1980, about a third of 12th graders had smoked in the past month; today that number has dropped to fewer than 1 in 5. Teenage alcohol use has reached historic lows. In 1980, 72 percent of high-school seniors said they had recently consumed alcohol, compared with just 40 percent in 2011. In 1981, about 43 percent of 12th graders had tried an illegal drug other than pot; in 2011 that number fell to 25 percent.

Today’s teenagers are also far less likely to have sex or get pregnant compared with their parent’s generation. In 1988, half of boys 15 to 17 had experienced sex; by 2010 that number fell to just 28 percent. The percentage of teenage girls having sex dropped to 27 percent from 37.2 percent, according to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health officials say drug use and teenage pregnancy rates are higher here than most other developed nations, but most trends are improving. What about TV shows like “Teen Mom” and “Gossip Girl” that suggest adolescence is dominated by sex and booze? “There is a lot more media hype around the kids who are raising hell,” says Dr. John Santelli, president-elect for the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. “There are a lot of kids who are pretty responsible.”

Read the rest.


  1. Irish Spectre says:

    As a parent of three adolescents, this data runs absolutely contrary to my own specific experience and strong general impression of what’s happening out there now re substances and teenages. “Weed” usage particularly is utterly commonplace in my middle class town, far, far more so than in the late ’70′s, when I came of age.

  2. Good news. But then they go to college.

  3. I find that most teens don’t live down to their image. I agree with Dr. Santelli that “There are a lot of kids who are pretty responsible.” They’re a lot better than their sitcom personas; I find the whole idea of “I Hate My Teenage Daughter” a turn off and really not funny. I actually enjoyed my kids’ teen years. You can watch them grow and mature so much in just a few years. Besides, teens take themselves to the bathroom and dress themselves. They’re not cutting teeth and having colic anymore. They can have a conversation about ideas and values.

  4. pagansister says:

    Since the beginning of time, I expect the “adults” have wondered “What’s the matter with kids today?” There are many, many great kids coming up in the world. What is unfortunate is that amost of the ones we hear about are the ones that cause problems.

  5. Hmmm…I hope this IS true, but like Irish Spectre, I admit that it certainly goes against what I have observed. I wonder how kids define “having sex” in 2012? I would imagine that it is quite different than 1982.
    My kids like to remind me that it was our generation that pretty much messed things up in the way we raised our children from our hovering helicopters. It’s probably because unlike our own parents, we knew from experience the kind of trouble they could get into.

  6. Yeah. During WWII there was plenty of concern, granted understandable, that the “men being away” meant the kids were becoming juvenile delinquents. Than in the 1950s you had the James Dean phenomenon and “Blackboard Jungle.” Doesn’t mean most kids lived like that.

    Unlike others here I think these studies are probably at least somewhat accurate. When I was a kid in the 1980s my small-town had rashes of arson during Halloween and at least one kid killed an alcohol-related incident. The President of my High School class died of drug-addiction a couple years ago while half the girls in my school were pregnant by graduation. I don’t hear of things being that bad in the town’s school today. Well excepting maybe porn, specifically sharing pornographic images with others who may not even want them. Due to the Internet I think porn and gambling-abuse are probably worse with the young now. I think that could be true and the study true as neither of those would count as “sex or drugs” under the terminology used.

  7. “By several noteworthy measures, today’s teenagers are growing increasingly conservative.”

    Hooray! Amen! Hallelujah!! All this conservative actvism is having an affect! My life will have been worthwhile if Conservative values finally trump over the hippie values of the sixties that has so domoinated and reduced our culture!

  8. The dark lining to this silver cloud is that these deviant behaviors are declining primarily because they are social deviant behaviors. Many of today’s kids rarely interact face to face. They’re staring at a screen 24/7. Tweeting, facebook, online war games. Many of them don’t have the social skills to become sexually active or the imagination required to experiment with drugs.

  9. So the good news is, they’re leading somewhat cleaner lives. The flip side is that they’ll be living those lives on YOUR couch, mom and dad, until they ship you off to the nursing home.

  10. Most kids aren’t allowed out of sight of an adult, except on the computer. For example, in my state, they (and their parents) don’t have time to practice driving or take driver’s ed, so the 18 year old kids take expensive driving school classes instead, evading the practice hours rules. (And also having to pay for expensive auto insurance for themselves, before they can even get a temp license.)

    This is why college kids get into trouble. They’ve never been on their own at all.

  11. Sadly I think this is more “conservative temperament.” A good deal of young people are quite supportive of all these things while just doing them less themselves. So they might be doing marijuana less, but supporting others use more. Or see sexual-libertinism as a valid lifestyle choice, but one that is increasingly wrong for their needs or goals.

  12. I am a 24 year old male and have tried smoking pot one time at 20 year old. That is it. I don’t drink either. Ever. Not casually, or socially. While this isn’t the case for you maybe instead of complaining on a website you should figure out where you failed as a parent and TAKE RESPONSIBILITY. And don’t call me “entitled” like your generation loves to do as well for saying this to you. You are making excuses for your poor parenting just as your children do for their bad behaviors. You deserve the same dose of the medicine you are constantly feeding your children. Teenagers who smoke pot, my friends who did in high school, are the ones who have parents who nag too much and are never happy with anything their children do. They have parents who are hypocrites and except their children to be what they should be being first and foremost themselves. If you want your children to stop making excuses for their actions maybe you should start by being an example yourself. That is your number one job as a parent after all! Also prove to your children that this life has meaning and is worth living with excitement and joy, if you make the world out to be a dull and bitter place that’s exactly what your children will think it is and thus will put no effort in their own lives in being successful and not smoking pot all day.

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