Monday, December 15, 2008

National Poll: More Than One-in-Four Teens Think Violent Behavior is Acceptable; Many Say It's OK to Settle a Score

RJ Note: Well, Ollie, that's another fine mess you've gotten us in to. We Americans had best wake up when it comes to our children.

/PRNewswire/ -- While today's teens are learning the Three "Rs" of Reading, Writing and Arithmetic in school, new research shows that many are justifying violence to practice a fourth -- Revenge. In a youth culture where violence is often believed to be acceptable, these and other findings not only present disturbing implications for school safety, but for the workplace as well, say experts.

A new poll of 750 teens from Junior Achievement and Deloitte and conducted by Opinion Research shows that more than one-in-four teens (27 percent) think behaving violently is sometimes, often or always acceptable. More students thought violence was acceptable than was cheating (19 percent), plagiarizing (10 percent) or stealing (3 percent). And fully 20 percent of respondents said they had personally behaved violently towards another person in the past year, and 41 percent reported a friend had done so.

When the teens who agreed that violence was acceptable were asked more specifically about rationale for such behavior, most noted self-defense (87 percent) and to help a friend (73 percent). However, more than a third said violence was acceptable to settle an argument (35 percent) and for revenge (34 percent). Other justifications were dislike of the person who is the target of the violence (22 percent), to gain respect (21 percent), peer pressure (14 percent), and simply for "the thrill" of it (10 percent). Of considerable concern is that more than three-fourths (77 percent) of those who think violence is acceptable also consider themselves ethically prepared to enter the workforce.

"It is highly troubling that so many teenagers have a self-image of ethical readiness and the confidence in their ability to make good decisions later in life, yet at the same time freely admit to current behavior that is highly unethical," said David W. Miller, Ph.D., Director of the Princeton University Faith & Work Initiative, and professor of business ethics at Princeton University. "Employers will have their hands full if a quarter of teens grow up still willing to resort to violence and other unethical behavior when it comes to making decisions about how to settle differences, protect their interests or get ahead."

The poll also shows that teens feel more accountable to themselves (86 percent), than they do to their parents or guardians (52 percent), their friends (41 percent) or society (33 percent). Teens' feelings about accountability, coupled with self-reported unethical behavior, raises a potential concern among employers because ties within a community, school, work environment or social network often guide behavior. If teens lack accountability to others, the data suggests that their choices may be driven purely by self-interest, and not by interest in the greater good.

"The results of the survey reveal considerable ethical relativism among teens and raises questions about their ability to make good decisions later in life," said Sean C. Rush, President and Chief Executive Officer of JA Worldwide. We're understandably concerned about these results but recognize that they do point to a major learning opportunity."

The survey results also show that many teenagers are lacking role models. Only about half (54 percent) cite their parents as role models. Most of those who don't cite their parents as role models are turning to their friends, or they said they didn't have a role model -- which begs the question why more parents, teachers, clergy, politicians or business leaders are not viewed as role models -- and what society can do to improve this statistic.

"Teens need training in ethical decision-making, practical tools and behavioral role models that help them understand not only how to make the right choices, but how those choices will impact their personal success and the success of the organizations they join," said Ainar D. Aijala, global managing partner, Consulting, Deloitte and chairman of the board, JA Worldwide. "That is why Deloitte continues to support ethics education in collaboration with Junior Achievement."

Junior Achievement and Deloitte offer "JA Business Ethics(TM)" as part of their $2 million initiative to help young people make ethical decisions. "JA Business Ethics" was developed in response to the needs of high school students; it provides hands-on classroom activities and real-life applications designed to foster ethical decision-making as students prepare to enter the workforce and addresses issues such as lying, cheating and violence. Students examine how their beliefs align with major ethics theories and learn the benefits and advantages of having a code of ethics. Additionally, Junior Achievement recently updated the original "Excellence through Ethics(TM)" program, which is available online at www.ja.org/ethics free of charge and provides age-appropriate lessons for students in grades 4-12. At the high school level, the "Excellence through Ethics" lessons include appropriate methods of conflict resolution in the workplace. For example, through role-playing exercises, students learn how to overcome disagreements with co-workers by finding common ground.

Methodology

This report presents the findings of a telephone survey conducted by Opinion Research Corporation, among a national sample of 750 teens comprising 375 males and 375 females 12 to 17 years of age, living in private households in the continental United States. Interviewing for this TEEN CARAVAN(R) Survey was completed during the period October 9-12, 2008. The survey's margin of error is +/- 3.6 percent.

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