Historical Trends in Concerns About Social Issues Across Four Decades Among US Adolescents


Benjamin Oosterhoff, Laura Wray‐Lake, Cara A. Palmer, Julie B. Kaplow


Journal of Research on Adolescence


This study examined adolescents’ concerns about social issues and how these concerns have changed over historical time. Separate cohorts of U.S. high school seniors (N = 110,953; 51.1% female) reported their worries about four social issues (crime/violence, economic problems, hunger/poverty, race relations) every year from 1976 to 2015. Youth were most concerned with crime/violence, followed by economic problems, hunger/poverty, and race relations. Adolescents’ social concerns varied by demographic characteristics and cohort, paralleling specific historical events and appearing responsive to the political challenges of the time. Initiatives seeking to engage youth within the political process may benefit from providing opportunities for teens to participate in civic activities aimed to address these issues.



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