All Adults Are Adultist

All Adults Are Adultist. If we just THINK about youth, we are being adultist. Without seeing our own adultism, we are being adultist. We stop challenging adultism when we don't take action to address our OWN adultism. Learn more at

This post explores how all adults are adulist. It includes a definition, my perspectives, and some logic supporting this reality.

I define adultism as bias towards adults. To understand how all adults are adultist, you have to understand that concept. Bias towards adults can result in discrimination against children and youth; it can also permit adults to keep young people fed, safe, supported, thriving, and empowered.

Adults define terms; adults make language; adults assign categories; adults drive the market economy which necessitates labeling anyone between certain ages into specific categories. These behaviors very specifically embody adultism.

As a category, “youth” didn’t exist before marketers embraced the non-adult, non-child space of human lifespans as a distinct phenomenon that could be profitized through targeted advertising. That doesn’t mean that the concept of youth didn’t exist before marketing; however, before it was an attitude and state of mind rather than a specific time of life. When marketers wanted to start selling music and other entertainment, clothes and other identifications, recreation and other fun to more people, they fostered the identity of an age category that was neither child or adult, and that embodied a certain joie de vivre that could be packaged, branded, priced, sold, and profited from.

In turn, that marketing led to the establishment, identification, and then entrenchment of so-called youth culture and sub-cultures among youth. These cultures fostered particular behaviors and attitudes, which in turn necessitated certain intercessions into youthhood, including education, empowerment, recreation, prevention and intervention, and more. The rise of public education, public health, democratic institutions, athletic clubs and social groupings was all entwined with the development of NGOs, social services, government agencies, and other services which could deflect, protect, interject and otherwise counterbalance the effects of the marketplace on youth.

All of this was prefaced, premised and projected into reality by adults for the benefit of adults. We created the market economy, we created the service sector, we established governments, we perpetuated academia, and we advocated for the establishment of everything that developed youth into a distinct, particular, defined time of life that everyone goes through.

That makes thinking youth exist adulist.

All adults perpetuate adultism, whether or not we loathe it and whether or not we intend to. Its true, there is such a thing as being under 30. However, there was a recent time—before the 1850s in western society—when that being under 30 was a barrier to engagement in the economy, a roadblock to civic engagement, a stranglehold on social influence, or a specifically labelled social phenomenon created to make some adults more wealthy while keep more young people disenfranchised. That was when the concept of youth as a particularly defined time of life didn’t exist.

Thinking youth exist is adultist.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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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

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