Young People May Have A Right To That Inflated Ego

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There’s been a lot in the press lately about young people being more self-satisfied and egocentric than previous generations. Today’s teens, who have reaped the benefits of grade inflation, coddling parents, and permissive teachers are accused of thinking all too well of themselves and their skills. Yet, given the lowering rates of teen pregnancy, substance abuse, and dedication to public service, this new crop of adolescents may have earned the right to think of themselves as “better” than previous generations.

Psychologist Jeffrey Arnett, a research professor in the psychology department at Clark University in Massachusetts, studies emerging adulthood (age 18 to 29). He told msnbc that on average, today’s young people aren’t engaging in nearly the same amount of risky behavior than their parents were:

“If you look at the patterns in young people’s behavior, all the news is good, pretty much. Crime is down and rates of substance abuse are down, way down. Rates of all kinds of sexual risk-taking — from abortion to sexually transmitted diseases — are down.”

Arnett also pointed to a survey of college kids in 1990, in which 17% of college freshman said that they’d like to participate in public service while in school. In 2010, about a third of freshman said the same. In 1989, two-thirds of college freshman said that they had performed some volunteer work while in high school. In 2010, nearly 87% said that they had volunteered prior to coming to college.

While it’s definitely worth mentioning that most colleges now require such volunteer work, the fact that the vast majority of young people are rising to meet these imposed standards does still say something. Contributions to the planet and the public are all welcomed endeavors, and if these kids are actually following safe sex practices and refraining from crime all at the same time, perhaps they’ve worked for that feather in their collective hats.