Interview on Adultism

The following is my response to an interview request I received from the UK last week. I thought I’d share some of my responses with you, as I think this is some of the most salient writing I’ve done on adultism lately. Let me know what you think.
1. Why do you think ageism towards young people is often ignored?
First, I believe it starts because it’s not recognized for what it is. Ageism, which describes bias based on age, is different from adultism, which is the specific discrimination against youth that favors adults. It’s important to distinguish these two, as the focus in young people can get lost in the larger conversation about age-based discrimination, which affects all ages to varying degrees.
Adultism can be easily ignored because it’s not often recognized. The UK media picked up some studies on ephebiphobia last year that exposed the fear of youth driving a lot of your nation’s older population moving houses as they age. This awareness can serve to increase sensitivity about ephebiphobia, which in turn can be used to increase awareness about adultism. This type of wide-scale conciousness-raising is the first step towards challenging discrmination against youth.
Adultism has been allowed to become so predominant throughout our society because of the economically exploitable position children and youth have been assigned, both as consumers and as the objects if consumption. Let me know I’d you want me to explain that further.
2. In what ways do you think ageism occurs in young people?
Adultism, as it occurs in young people, is manifested through self-oppressive behaviors and attitudes, peer-focused bias and discrimination, and adultcentric acceptance, concurrence, and promotion of discrimination against other young people.
Adultism as it occurs towards young people is manifested through individual attitudes, cultural and structural barriers. I have written about this extensively on my blog at
3. Have you met young people who have been victims of age discrimination?
All young people are subjected to adultism, as discriminatory attitudes towards them are apparent in the attitudes of their parents, the behaviors of their doctors and the environments they’re surrounded by from the moment of their birth- and before. Is all this discrimination bad? Absolutely not – it serves to promote safety and propogate cultural norms. However, it’s mostly far from necessary. Consequently many opportunities to appropriately and necessarily reinvent society are lost every single moment of every single day because of adultism.
4. If so, how has it affected them?
Adultism causes detrimental effects that ripple throughout our lives. After being subjected by this tool of discrimination from our earliest ages it becomes ingrained in our personal identities and life beliefs. This can lead to a deeply suspicious age-awareness and an absence of consciousness about the effects of all forms of oppression in our lives. Given the fleeting nature of all of our positions as children and youth, many people seek to adapt to the reality of adultism by internalizing the negativity and perpetuating its dynamic, both as self-oppression and as peer-oppression. As we become adults the messages of age discrimination become so thoroughly embedded in our consciousness that many people lose their ability to distinguish from what is oppressive and what isn’t. This makes adultist behaviors “okay,” and as individuals we begin to move from our internalized messages to manifest external oppression towards young people.
Unfortunately, this is especially true as we become parents, youth workers, and teachers. While we are well-intended in our determination to “help kids”, we lose our bearing on what actually helps them versus harms them. And while Draconian measures such as corporal punishment and behaviour modification schools continue to wane from the public spotlight, the simple fact of the matter is that age-discriminatory economic, political, educational, social and cultural landscapes of Western society. So adultism affects young people throughout their youth, throughout their society, and ultimately throughout their lives.
5. Do you think ageism in young people is more prevalent in males or females?
Adultism affects all people regardless of gender.
6. Why do you think this is?
Adultism is age-based favoritism shown towards adults that discriminates against youth. Gender is not part of this analysis.
7. How do you think young people feel about age discrimination?
I would ask young people what they feel about age discrimination, and often do. In my workshops with thousands of youth across the US in the last 10 years I have learned that the range of opinions varies as the backgrounds of youth vary; however, a few things stay constant. These include that once they understand it, almost all youth agree that adultism exists. Another is that adultism affects everyone. These things I’ve learned from young people themselves, and I still have more to learn.
Again, I’d love to hear what you think.

Published by Adam F.C. Fletcher

I'm a speaker, writer, trainer, researcher and advocate who researches, writes and shares about education, youth, and history.

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