Discussion 7 – Disrupting AdultismAdultism refers to bias against children and youth; that is oppression, discrimination, and the unconscious

Discussion 7 – Disrupting Adultism

Adultism refers to bias against children and youth; that is oppression, discrimination,
and the unconscious assumption that adults are better than young people. It is
prevalent in our society, while transition-age youth may experience it more; it exists for
young people of all ages.

● Shows up in stereotypes about youth (at-risk, troublemakers)
● Common sayings, “Children should be seen and not heard.”
● Adults assuming they know better than youth –even in areas they know

nothing about.
● Adults using mocking statements or a tone of voice with youth that they

wouldn’t use with adults.
We do not have to perpetuate adultism, because we experienced it. How do
you observe your own adultism?
Sometimes people confuse adultism with teaching young people to respect
their elders. As indigenous teachers and leaders illuminate, we teach young
people respect by modeling respect. Elaborated on by authors Brendtro,
Brokenleg and Van Bockern (2002),
“Adults may believe they are acting in the best interests of the child, but there
is a quality of paternalism that borders on oppression. Human service
professionals have a long history of patronizing, infantilizing, or
dehumanizing, the very persons they are pledged to serve. While they may
not be aware of their basic disrespect, young persons are not” p. 84.
In 1989, 200 countries worldwide ratified the largest piece of human rights
legislation at that time, known as the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child

● Links to an external site.
● . The principles embedded in this doctrine in many ways push back against

global western and northern approaches to separating young people from
adults in processes of subjugation, stigmatization, and discrimination. The
United States and South Sudan were among the only two countries in the
world to not ratify this legislation. Among many things, this legislation asserts
that all young people have a right to know about and be heard from on all
matters concerning them.
How might this legislation or the lack thereof relate to functions of adultism in
the United states?

Please write on at least 4 of the following questions for your discussion post

1. When you consider the concept of adultism, what comes up for you?
2. See if you can reflect on a particular moment when this was true for

you. Consider – how have you experienced adultism? If it’s helpful, try

and put yourself in the mindset of your younger self, e.g. twelve years
old.

3. Note any emotional insight coming up for you – how did it feel to be
treated as inferior to adults?

4. How might your experiences of adultism relate to your professional
interests?

5. How does adultism relate to child, youth and family studies?
6. How do we recognize adultism within us?

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