Youth Life Situations

Part
01
of two
Part
01

Youth Life Situations: Ages 5-17

Ten life situations that kids ages 5-17 in the U.S. typically go through when growing up include bullying, school shooting preparation, rejection and fitting in, fear of death and loss, image, grades and performance, peer pressure, social media, college decisions, and dating and relationships. Each situation is examined more closely below. Note that while most situations can apply for any child between the ages of five and 17, some are skewed toward older kids who tend to confront a larger variety of situations and experiences.

Bullying

Students of all ages, from kindergarten through high school, experience bullying. In fact, 20% of all kindergartners, 33% of all elementary aged children, and 15% of high school students have experienced bullying "often" while at school. The most common types of bullying that students have to deal with are verbal and social, so children need to develop the necessary skills to handle non-violent, but still upsetting situations. In addition, "most bullying takes place in school, outside on school grounds, and on the school bus," which are times when adults may not be able to immediately deal with the situations, forcing students to find solutions themselves. While bullying is a major concern in schools across the country, "only 20 to 30% of students who are bullied notify adults about the bullying," which means the majority of kids are learning to negotiate this life situation themselves.

School shooting preparation

The increase in school shootings in the United States has given rise to a new threat that school children of all ages must confront. Even though younger kids are more "egocentric" and don't tend to worry about school violence as much as teenagers do, they can still pick up on "the fears of their parents, and if they sense that Mom or Dad is afraid, they will take notice." In addition, participating in active shooter drills can cause anxiety in younger children who don't understand that they are preparing for an event that is statistically unlikely to occur. Older children begin to get used to the idea of a potential threat since by middle school and high school, they have been "exposed to a feared situation repeatedly" and begin to understand that "it's unlikely something bad will happen." Even so, 57% of all teens worry that a shooting could happen at their school, which means that even if they are desensitized to the preparation for such an incident, they are still learning to deal with the fear.

Rejection and fitting in

Rejection and fitting in are worries that begin in elementary school in the United States and persist through high school. At the younger age, they are just beginning to understand that "it’s a big world out there" and become anxious about finding their place in it. Humans are naturally social beings, so the desire to fit in is a feeling that typical kids experience when confronted with their first real social experiences independent from their parents. Learning to handle rejection and grow from it is a rite of passage of sorts, even though "rejection by one’s kind is rarely a welcome... development." This issue continues to persist as students get older and begin to break off into peer groups based on interests and other social factors.

Fear of death and Loss

Young kids between the ages of six and 11 begin to understand that "death is inevitable" and this knowledge, whether they have experienced death firsthand or not, causes anxiety as they develop an understanding that "something bad could happen to someone they care about." Learning to deal with mortality is a developmental stage everyone must experience, whether it is through losing a family member, friend, or pet. However, it is also when kids begin to appreciate "what's good in their life" and develop a sense of gratitude, which "has many benefits, including increased well-being, happiness, energy, optimism, empathy, and popularity." Moreover, Loss can take many forms, including friendship, activities, divorce, or even familiarity, which can occur with moves and school changes. Beginning in elementary school, kids have to learn to recognize grief and realize that positively coping with those feelings are necessary for a well-adjusted life.

Image

In middle school and high school, "nothing is worse... than standing out in a way they haven't chosen." At this age, kids are just beginning to understand who they are and how they fit into the world, but they aren't yet ready to celebrate their differences. Middle schoolers begin transitioning from a "family-based support system to a peer-based one," which means they begin to look to their friends for guidance in all aspects of life, from fashion to musical tastes and beyond. Learning to view their differences as assets rather than liabilities is a growing experience that nearly all U.S. kids endure. The importance of image doesn't end in middle school, though, as high schoolers must also adjust to their changing bodies and begin to compare themselves with their peers and other influencers. Developing a positive self-image at this age "is an important part of healthy self-esteem" that can last a lifetime.

Grades and performance

In the United States, middle school is when grades and performance begin to really matter and "adolescents begin to comprehend the consequences of failure." Kids who are naturally achievement-driven may begin to put pressure on themselves to always be successful, whether in the classroom or on a playing field or court. Children who are not necessarily driven by good grades or high achievement may begin to feel pressure from parents or teachers to perform at a higher level, which can lead to "depression, anxiety, lower self-esteem, behavior problems, criticism from parents, learning problems, and lower grades." Learning how to balance effort and achievement and to deal with occasional failures are skills all kids need as they progress through life. In high school, the pressure to get good grades and succeed becomes even more intense as the need to make life-changing academic and career choices comes nearly an ever-present concern.

Peer Pressure

As previously mentioned, middle school is the age when kids start looking more to their peers for support than to their parents. It is a natural transition, but is fraught with exposure to new dangers and experiences that young teens are not always equipped to handle. Discovering ways to deal with the pressures to "date, drink, smoke, skip school, bully others, and rebel against authority," among others, is critical to every child's development. Even when parents take proactive steps to help their kids prepare for peer pressure, it is still "hard for children to resist," especially when combined with their additional concern about their image and social status. Middle school is only the beginning of peer pressure, though, as the issue "tends to grow in intensity as students move up through the grades."

Social media

With the average age of U.S. kids who sign up for social media accounts at 12.6 years, dealing with social media and the complicated cyberworld is an issue for many middle schoolers and most high schoolers. In fact, nearly 80% of high school students and 23% of "tweens" have at least one social media account. Technology isn't going anywhere and is actually becoming more prevalent, so U.S. kids must learn to balance screen time with other aspects of life. Moreover, since "students are incredibly mean to each other on social media," teenagers must also learn to cope with cyberbullies and inappropriate online behavior, which can often be overwhelming for kids whose brains are still underdeveloped. Since "teens who spend five or more hours online a day [are] 71 percent more likely than those who spent only one hour a day to have at least one suicide risk factor," social media is a major concern that kids must learn to manage as they progress through school.

College decisions

High school students in the United States face immense pressure to apply and get accepted to college, but the focus on college and careers actually starts much earlier. Many times, in students as young as 12 (6th grade) high expectations from themselves and parents lead to "stress and frustration over tests, assignments, ACT/SAT scores, and college applications" as students attempt to gain acceptance to their (and often, their parents') college of choice. In addition, over-scheduling becomes a problem as students attempt to participate in as many extra-curricular activities as possible in an effort to impress college recruiters. Some students do not even want to attend college, but are under the impression that it is "the key to success" and therefore, feel pressure from the "social stigma that makes students believe that they will be judged for not choosing to go to college." Discovering what they want to do after high school is a decision each U.S. student must make, and often, the process is daunting and stressful, as is learning how to balance the increasing demands on their time and to set reasonable goals.

Dating and relationships

Many students experience their first "real" romantic relationship during their high school years and this can introduce many other issues such as consent, sex, breakups, and domestic violence that must be addressed. These first forays into intimacy help form students' relationship expectations and provide them with opportunities to "practice" dating so they can develop a "sturdy foundation for dating in their adult lives." About 40% of U.S. high school students report having sexual intercourse, which means they are negotiating the corresponding risks of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy as well. This may also be the time when teens begin to explore and grow comfortable with their sexual orientation, as "8% of all high school students in America, report being lesbian, gay, or bisexual." This issue, although becoming more mainstream, can cause high school students to also need to confront bullying and ostracizing as they come to terms with their minority status.
Part
02
of two
Part
02

Youth Life Situations: Ages 8-22

Ten examples of the life situations young adults aged 18 to 22 years in the United States typically go through when growing up are poor mental health, living with an unmarried partner, dropping out of church, spending more than they can afford, prevalence of alcohol abuse, gaps in relationships with parents, loneliness, being tied to student loans, identifying self values, and lacking a sense of direction.

POOR MENTAL HEALTH

  • A Cigna study conducted with 20,000 Americans young people between the ages of 18 to 22 years is more likely to have poor mental health than senior citizens. (Source 1)
  • The study also revealed that young people who actively engage with social media are most likely to experience poor mental health that could result in depression compared to those who barely engage with social media.

LIVING WITH UNMARRIED PARTNER

  • According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2018, it is more prevalent for young adults aged 18 to 24 years to live with an unmarried partner. In 2018, 9% of young adults aged 18 to 24 years lived with an unmarried partner compared to 0.1% in 1968.
  • However, over the 10-year period from 2008-2018, there has been a slight decrease in the proportion of young adults aged between 18 to 24 years who are living with an unmarried partner. Additionally, 30% of young adults aged 18-34 years are now married.

DROPPING OUT OF THE CHURCH

  • A Nashville study showed that the number of young adults in college attending church on Sunday has been reducing.
  • 66% of young adults stopped attending church regularly for at least a year when aged between 18 to 22 years.
  • It also revealed that the church drop-out rate increases with age.
  • The reasons given by young adults aged 18-22 years for dropping out of church are:
    • 24% said they had gone to college
    • 32% said that church members are judgmental
    • 29% said they do not feel connected with other church attendees
    • 25% disagree with the church's positions on some political and social issues
    • 24% drop out because of work responsibilities.

TIED STUDENT LOANS

  • Student loans are the most common reason why young adults aged 18 to 24 years in the United States are in debt followed by credit card debt.
  • 2 out of 10 young American adults spend as much as 50%-100% of their income on debt repayment. However, experts consider student loans to be good debt because it has a low cost and provides tax advantages.
  • According to Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, a financial adviser, young adults should be watchful about the volume of student loans they take so that it is not more than what they can pay from jobs gotten after college.

Prevalence OF ALCOHOL abuse

  • The prevalence of alcohol consumption among young adults in college that are aged between 18 to 24 years is 58%. Additionally, the prevalence of binge drinking among college students is 37.9% while 12.5% of college students can be described as heavy drinkers.
  • This prevalence of alcohol abuse results in the death of an estimated 1,825 college students every year in the United States.
  • An estimated 696,000 of college students aged between 18 to 24 years who do not drink alcohol are assaulted by a student who drinks alcohol each year.
  • Alcohol abuse has also resulted in college students missing classes, falling behind, performing poorly, and receiving lower grades overall.

RELATIONSHIP gap with parents

  • A project conducted by Harvard’s Making Caring Common revealed that one of the reasons why young adults struggle with their life experiences is because of relationship gaps with their parents.
  • The study showed differences which might explain the relationship gaps observed. 96% of parents stated that the moral character of their children is important and most valuable to them while 80% of young adults said that their parents valued achievements or personal happiness more.

DEALING WITH LONELINESS

  • According to a Cigna survey, 54% of young adults aged 18 to 22 years struggle loneliness.
  • Additionally, 46% of American young adults feel alone and left out.
  • Overall, young adults have an overall national loneliness score of 44%.
  • The loneliness experienced by young adults is rooted in the lack of companionship, and no close or meaningful relationships.
  • Additionally, young adults sometimes feel their interests and ideas are not shared by others.

SPENDING MORE THAN THEY CAN AFFORD

  • According to Schwab’s 2019 Modern Wealth survey, Americans who are aged 18-22 years are mostly influenced to purchase things by the spending habits of their friends.
  • 35% of young adults put pressure on themselves by spending more than they can afford especially when they see their friends post on social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram.
  • 61% of young adults pay more attention to how their friends spend more than save.
  • 41% of them spend more money than they can afford in order to experience something with a friend.
  • 44% of young adults are influenced by social media to spend money.

IDENTIFYING SELF VALUES

  • Young adults aged 18-22 years start to develop a stronger sense of their own individuality and identify their own self values as they approach adulthood.
  • Following this process, friendships and relationships start to become stable.
  • Moreover, young adults start to consider and identify the right things to do. They also have started to develop the ability to distinguish events in the future and base their decisions on hopes and ideals.

LACKING A SENSE OF DIRECTION

  • The typical young adult American aged 18-30 years lacks an overall sense of direction with respect to his/her life, career, and the future.
  • That is why there are different programs that are intended to provide assistance to help young adults transition to becoming successful adults.
  • These programs help young adults by providing a support and mentoring service to boost their independent living skills and mood management skills.
  • Additionally, transition programs help young adults "achieve a balance between physical health and fitness, to maintain an organized environment, to establish healthy relationship patterns, and to build self-esteem and values."
Sources
Sources

From Part 01