Sep 10, 2007

From the Archives

Survey Reveals Challenges Faced by Young People

Recent research from The Barna Group revealed that parents are more worried about the future their children than other high-profile concerns. A new study released by the California-based research firm, conducted on behalf of media production company Good News Holdings, identifies the specific problems their children are facing today. Separating the views of parents by the age of their children, the study discovered that the parents of teenagers identified peer pressure as the biggest challenge faced by 13-to-18 year olds. The parents of pre-teens listed both peer pressure and school performance as the greatest struggles their younger children face.

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Parents of Teens

When asked to identify the most significant or challenging issues facing their teenagers, parents listed peer pressure (42%), performance in school (16%), substance abuse (16%), and behavioral issues (15%). The only other issues mentioned by at least 5% of teenagers’ parents were values development (6%), college choices and acceptance (5%), attitude (5%), and media use (5%). Challenges related to their teen’s faith were listed by only 3% parents.

Parents of Young Children

When asked to identify the most significant or challenging issues facing their children under the age of 13, school performance topped the list (26%) along with peer pressure (24%). The other most common issues were behavioral challenges (10%), media use (6%), attitudes (6%), family-related struggles (5%), health-related struggles (5%), and issues related to their maturation (5%). Challenges pertaining to their faith were mentioned by only 3% of parents.

Specific Challenges Tested

Parents were then given a list of possible challenges their children might face, and asked to indicate how significant that issue is for their children. Of the 13 issues posed to parents, the most pressing issues for teenagers were deemed to be not having enough money (45% of parents said that was a “very” or “somewhat” significant issue to their teenager); feeling misunderstood by their family (43%); struggling with their self-image (40%); not owning the latest technology (37%); not wearing the “right” clothing (33%); and not feeling accepted by their peers (32%).

Among the parents of children younger than 13, by far the most serious issues were feeling misunderstood by their family (listed by 41% of pre-teen parents as a significant issue in the minds of their children); being made fun of by their peers (32%); struggling with their self-image (26%); and not feeling accepted by their peers (26%).

Opportunities for Parents and Youth Leaders

George Barna, who conducted the survey for Good News Holdings, noted that the volume of issues faced by teenagers rose dramatically when compared to the challenges facing pre-teens. Many of those teen issues relate to the relationships teenagers have with their peers.

“The percentage of young people plagued by peer pressure issues more than doubles once a child reaches high school,” Barna revealed. “That pressure takes many forms: using drugs or alcohol, befriending certain groups of peers, owning specific media technologies, having sexual experiences, wearing particular types of clothing or brands, and possessing a certain attitude.”

The research also showed that moms and dads weight the various issues differently. “Mothers are much more aware of peer pressure issues. Fathers are more cognizant of the academic pressure their children face,” Barna pointed out. “This may reflect each parent’s personal sensitivities. Mothers tend to be more sensitive to relationships, while fathers are more focused on marketplace performance.”

The issue that seemed to remain a constant and significant challenge across time is the nature of the connection between parent and child. “Feeling misunderstood is one of the most widespread and long-lasting difficulties felt by young people,” according to Barna. “What’s interesting is that kids who feel misunderstood generally maintain the belief that their family loves them. That’s a critical bond that enables most of them to transcend the division and stay connected to their family.”

Barna noted that as the new school year starts, the Good News research study could be useful to parents, teachers and church leaders as they try to relate to young people. “Understanding the tensions that kids are wrestling with enables an adult to connect with a child at a deeper level. Acknowledging the challenges, relating teaching to the issues they face, and even praying more specifically for these young people are ways of retaining and even deepening the relationship while providing tangible assistance to each child.”

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bout the Research

This report is based upon a nationwide telephone survey conducted by The Barna Group in November 2006 among 601 parents of children 18 or younger, and who consider themselves to be Christian. These adults were randomly selected from households in the 48 continental states. The sample has a maximum margin of sampling error of ±4.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. In total, the survey included 279 parents of teenagers, and 327 parents of children younger than 13. The maximum margin of sampling error for those segments is about ±6 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

About Barna

Since 1984, Barna Group has conducted more than two million interviews over the course of thousands of studies and has become a go-to source for insights about faith, culture, leadership, vocation and generations. Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization.

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