Understanding adolescents' experiences of ageism
Poppler, Ashleigh Katelyn
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Ageism, defined as discrimination against people on grounds of age, has been examined almost exclusively with regard to adults' perceptions of older adults (Nelson, 2005). Less research has examined adults' beliefs about teenagers and the ways adolescents experience ageism. Research on intersectionality indicates that adolescents of multiple social identities may be at a heightened risk of experiencing ageism (Crenshaw, 1989). The current study used a mixed-method approach to understand adolescents' subjective experiences with cognitive and behavioral facets of ageism and how these experiences differ across sociocultural backgrounds. All adolescents in the sample were asked: 'have you ever been treated differently because of your age' (yes or no?); 'if so, how have you been treated differently?' and 'how do you think adults feel about teenagers these days?' Results demonstrate that most youth believed that they were treated differently because of their age and that they believed adults felt negatively about teenagers. Additionally, logistic regressions indicated that Black youth were more likely to report that adults perceive teenagers as lazy and with contempt compared to non-Black youth, and young women were more likely to report that they were treated as unknowing or incapable compared to non-females in the sample. Findings indicate that adolescents perceive both cognitive and behavioral forms of ageism. These findings extend Positive Youth Development theory by highlighting that despite the importance of supporting adolescents, many adults hold negative beliefs about teenagers. Results from this study inform PYD theory and can be used to promote healthy adult-adolescent relationships.