Survey: Teens Struggle With Pressure to Succeed

Post a Comment » Written on January 8th, 2007     
Filed under: News
CHICAGO, IL (January 8, 2007) – The results of a recent study that found many teenagers struggle with “a lot of overwhelming pressure” doesn’t surprise Marti Burger, director of youth and family ministries for the Evangelical Covenant Church.

“Right now we live in a world that is so individual-centered that the messages teens are receiving in many venues is that ‘it doesn’t matter how you get there – what matters is that you achieve the goal,’ ” she says.

According to the fourth annual “Teen Ethics Poll” jointly released by J.A. Worldwide (Junior Achievement) and Deloitte & Touche:
•    Forty-four percent of teens say they feel strong pressure to succeed – the pressure is felt more often by girls (50 percent) than boys (38 percent), the report concludes.
•    Many teens admit they have personally engaged in unethical behavior in the last year by lying (69 percent), downloading a song without paying (34 percent), and cheating on tests (22 percent).
•    Eight in ten students (81 percent) who feel significant pressure to succeed, no matter the cost, think it’s going to remain the same or get worse when they join the workforce.
•    More than one quarter (29 percent) of all teens believe they are currently only somewhat or not at all prepared to make ethical decisions.

The survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of Junior Achievement and Deloitte between September 13 to September 21, 2006, involving 787 teens ages 13-18.

“These survey results underscore that it is critical to educate and prepare the next generation to make ethical decisions – even during the most stressful, pressure-filled situations,” says Jim Quigley, CEO of Deloitte & Touche.

A lot of the pressure begins in the home, Burger says. “For many parents, they do want their children to be successful, so they enroll them in all kind of activities such as sports teams, dance and other activities to get them ready for being the best. They want their children to be on the winning team, have the winning season, and be taught by the most prestigious teachers or mentors so that they can succeed.”

David Goetz, president of CZ Marketing and the author of Death by Suburb – and a member of the Glen Ellyn (Illinois) Evangelical Covenant Church – says parents need to examine their motives when desiring the best for their children. “In today’s highly competitive suburban world, often children become their parents’ immortality symbols,” he says, explaining that an immortality symbol is something concrete that confers glory on the parent – a house, a trim physique, or intellectual prowess.

The children then become servants of a parent’s ego, Goetz says. “Have you ever attended an end-of the-summer party and become annoyed by someone who trumpets in a loud voice just how smart his eight-year-old son is, how talented-and-gifted he really is, and how the public school dumbs down its curriculum for B and C students, and how bored this brilliant child is in school because of his exceptional abilities?”

Goetz adds, “These immortality symbols are the part of one’s self that must die, at least according to Christian spirituality.”

Parents don’t even have to say anything to put pressure on children, Burger says, because teens will replicate the behavior of adults. “We have images and stories lived out in front of us over and over about those who have been successful and those who blew it. We then put pressure on ourselves to live into the identity we believe we are supposed to be and what we believe others think we should be.”

Burger agrees that girls feel a greater sense of pressure than do boys. “For girls, image is such a big thing,” she explains.  “Girls have an intuitive side that helps them discern what people’s expectations are, even if they are never spoken.” As a result, once someone does or says something that correlates with what girls believe to be true, it adds weight to the image they feel must be met.

Burger says, however, that she sees positives in youth, many of whom also are rejecting some of the traditional definitions of success and are trying to live biblically. “That is why in many ways I believe our youth are standing up for justice, compassion and acts of mercy,” Burger explains. “They don’t want pre-made things. They want the real stuff – they want authentic relationships, they want our time, and they believe things can be better and want to work to make things better.

“There is so much hope for our world when you look at this generation of youth,” she adds. “They are making a difference. They’re not just talking about it, but they are doing it.”

Churches also must play a role in rejecting society’s model of success and helping people to consider achievement according to scripture. Burger recommends several resources for churches to help students develop Christian ethics and views of success, including the following:
•    Passing on the Faith: A Radical New Model for Youth and Family Ministry by Strommen and Hardel (St. Mary’s Press)
•    The Family: A Christian Perspective on the Contemporary Home by Jack O. Balswick and Judith K Balswick (Baker Book House)
•    Tough Problems, Real Solutions by Jim Burns (Youth Builders)
•    Growing True Disciples: New Strategies for Producing Genuine Followers of Christ by George Barna (WaterBrook Press)

The purchase the recommended books, except for Passing on the Faith), click on the desired book link for online purchase at Covenant Bookstore.

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