Introduction to Adultism
Adultism is favoring adults by dismissing young people. Adultism is also the addiction to the attitudes, ideas, beliefs, and actions of adults. Adultism promotes the discrimination of children and youth, and bias towards adults.
It is a major factor in how society is organized: By assuming children and youth do not have anything of substance or value to add to the majority of social activities, adults keep their power intact. Adultism happens in government, education, social services, religious communities, and families. It is present in our laws, legal practices, economic activities, and the ways we share our cultures.
There is value to adultism, as adults sometimes act more responsibly and capably than young people. However, adults often act as if children and youth are never responsible and never capable. That is the problem.
Adultism 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. Every adult in our society today has experienced adultism.
Because of this unconscious sharing of the same experiences, adults often perpetuate adultism without knowing it. In some cases, young people themselves perpetuate adultism.
The result of adultism is severe. Seeing and treating young people as weak, helpless and less intelligent than adults impresses inability in the hearts and minds of youth into adulthood. Adultism often makes verbal, physical, and emotional abuse towards young people seem “okay”. Further, adultism can make other negative opinions about people seem okay, so that young people see racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination being “okay”.
There are children, youth, and adult allies who are working to challenge adultism right now. Find resources on our website at http://freechild.org/adultism.htm.