Real Good News about Young People

I was driving to work today and heard Bill Wills from Cleveland radio station, WTAM, share some really encouraging news about young people in America. Bill mentioned that this is the kind of news that gets washed out by the downpour of negative and alarming stories from around the world. I wanted to share the story with you, but missed the source. I emailed Bill and he graciously returned an email sharing the source of the article. Thanks, Bill Wills, for sharing good news and thanks for responding so quickly to my email!

So, would you believe me if I told you that young people “have brought delinquency, truancy, promiscuity, alcohol abuse and suicide down to levels unseen in many cases since the 1950’s?” It’s true, according to David Finkelhor, sociology professor and director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire. In his Washington Post article, Are kids getting more virtuous?, Finkelhor gives encouraging findings. You can read his entire article here, but the following is a summary and some thoughts: 

  • Arrests for serious violent offenses by juveniles are down.
  • Property crime by youth also has sunk to its lowest point in 30 years.
  • The number of sexual assaults against 12- to 17-year-olds has declined.
  • The number of youth arrests for sex offenses also has dropped.
  • Violent victimization of teenagers at school has dropped drastically. 
  • Peer victimization, harassment and bullying have been abating.
  • Among 10- to 24- year-olds, the suicide rate is declining steadily.
  • The rate of teenage pregnancy is down to record lows in the United States
  • The percentage of ninth-graders who say they have had sexual intercourse has declined. 
  • Binge drinking by 12th-graders is lower than at any time since surveys were started in 1976.
  • The number of teenagers who have been drunk in the past year is at a record low.
  • Fewer youth are running away from home. 
  • School dropout rates among those ages 16 to 24 are at their lowest. 

Can I hear a collective cheer! This is really good news! Some folks, not the least of which are our young people, need to be congratulated!

Finkelhor surfaces some speculation on reasons for the improvement ranging from prevention and intervention programs to psychiatric medications to the diversion of internet and gaming. In looking for actual causes, he admits that, “social scientists are mostly guessing.” 

Many of these statistics are solid indicators of quality of life in a city, community or country. I will join the social scientists in guessing at some causes of how these indicators are improving:

  • I am putting my money on the fact that every day, there are parents who care about their kids and are pouring themselves into them at a higher rate as they understand what young people are up against.
  • I’ll bet that there are teachers who are putting their hearts and souls into their students every day as they are called to help them launch successfully into a less stable world.
  • My hunch is that there are school administrators and board members who are carefully discerning how to place their students in safe and fruitful learning environments every time they show up for school.
  • Let’s add to the speculation the assumption that there are caring mentors, tutors, case-workers, and social servants who are working through non-profit and government agencies to nurture young people at greater levels of effectiveness.
  • And then let’s not forget corporate leaders, entrepreneurs and church leaders who dedicate generous amounts of their time and resources to support their local youth.

As people who are looking for direct correlation between our everyday work and God’s redemptive work in our world for the common good, let’s celebrate these victories and pause to acknowledge that good things come from people who look to quietly do good. Let’s pray that the presence of God’s and his people in our cities is marked by good news and not by the negative, judgmental, legalism for which we are too often known. 

Keep up the good work!

Doug Cooper
Executive Director | City Gates Initiative

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