Redefining Adultism

An apple is an apple and an orange is an orange. Based on this belief, last month I unveiled my new definition for adultism at a youth commission retreat in Connecticut, and now I’m prepared to share it with you. The following is from the newly written Freechild Project Intro to Adultism:

Adultism is the addiction to the attitudes, ideas, beliefs, and actions of adults. It is a major concept in the organization of society: Adultism prevails in every sector, including government, education, social services, and families. It’s defeat is often seen as a bad thing, as adults are mostly capable only of seeing their own abilities as those that are truly needed to the function and well-being of our world. 

The problem with adultism is that ignores, silences, neglects, and punishes children and youth simply because they are not adults. Every young person experiences adultism from the day they are born until the day the world around them recognizes them as an adult.

The Freechild Project believes that adultism is part of the structure of society and its institutions, including families, schools, churches and the government. Because of the long history of adultism and its pervasive nature in our societies, essentially all people suffer from this oppression.  The resulting internalized oppression and distress patterns are severe.  For example, adultism is expressed by treating the young person as weak, helpless and less intelligent than adults.  For many, there is verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. Oppression of young people conditions them to accept all other oppressions that exist in the society. 

I would love to hear what you think about redefining adultism, and this new definition.
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

Published by Adam F.C. Fletcher

I'm a speaker and writer who researches, writes and shares about youth, education, and history. Learn more about me at

One thought on “Redefining Adultism

  1. Thank you for this redefinition. I do have a question about your use of the term “addiction” when presenting adultism as an oppression.Why use addiction and not privileging? Is there something that is missed when using privileging that addiction captures?The ways in which we address addictions are different from those with which we address oppression.Addiction and recovery have long had a difficult relationship with the medical or disease model, some feeling it to be appropriate others feeling the opposite. A medical or disease model would not be applicable in addressing systems of oppression. How do you reconcile the use of this term in an oppression frame work?


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