Complaining about the younger generation is an activity that dates back thousands of years. Yet people moaning about today’s teens are particularly ill-informed. Substance abuse and delinquency have plunged in recent years, but this probably won’t get a fraction of the attention of the supposed increase in narcissism.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health has examined teenagers since 2003, interviewing 13,000 to 18,500 a year, which constructs for an impressively big sample size. Between 2003 and 2014, substance use disorders for those aged 12 -1 7 declined by an astounding 49 percent, according to a paper in Psychological Medicine.
More importantly for those who are not teens themselves, delinquent behaviors such as assault, stealing, and carrying weapons have fallen by 34 percent. The findings accompany confirmation of better-known trends, like the big decline in American teenage pregnancies, which reflects both later starts to sexuality and more consistent utilize of contraceptives.
Disappointing as this will be to op-ed writers keen to bemoan the bad behavior of today’s yoof, policy-makers are keen to know the causes so that they can replicate them. After all, on many of these measures, the US still has rates of delinquency far above other wealthy nations, so much more can be done.
The tendencies have been known for some time, at the least among psychologists. “But what we learned in this study is that the deteriorations in substance abuse are connected to refuses in delinquency, ” said first writer Professor Richard Grucza, of Washington University, in a statement.
Grucza’s statistical exams demonstrated commonalities in the trends. “This indicates the changes have been driven more by a difference in adolescents themselves more than by policies to reduce substance abuse or delinquent behaviour, ” Grucza said.
Teenagers have become less inclined to participate in all forms of risky behavior, so while policies to tackle specific issues, such as tobacco use, may be helping at the margins, the bulk of the effect comes from something more fundamental, which is rendering repercussions across the board.
On Washington University BioMed Radio Grucza said we don’t yet know what this underlying army is; “It might be because the rate of child abuse and child maltreatment is going down. It might be because we’ve gotten lead out of the environment, and lead have contributed to neurological deficiencies that induce people to be more impulsive and likely to engage in criminal behavior.”
Hearing we’ve got lead out of the environmental issues is likely to be news to the inhabitants of Flint, and many other deprived fields, but Grucza’s work still shows that for all the terror about a generation addicted to phones and social media, the kids, relative to past generations, are alright.