Adultism: A Well-Kept Secret

Adultism is the term used to describe the oppression of young people by adults. An article by John Bell included this definition: “…adultism refers to behaviors and attitudes based on the assumption that adults are better than young people, and entitled to act upon young people without their agreement. This mistreatment is reinforced by social institutions, laws, customs, and attitudes.”

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Why Don't Adults Listen?

The following was submitted to my website by Jessica M. from Ireland. I have a space there for people to share their stories of adultism. (please visit it at:

Recently I was at an event and ran into the teacher of an art course I took when I was 16. She is much older than me and has children my own age.

We had a conversation and she asked me when I was going to learn to drive. I explained that I probably won't for the foreseeable future because I have a neurological problem. Her response?

“Well, you'll have to learn sometime.”

I explained that no, that is a very irresponsible view to take because I could have an attack and cause a crash. I also explained what my neurological issue was and exactly why it makes driving dangerous. She laughed and said 'but you'll have to learn sometime, it'll put you at such a disadvantage.

What got me was the difference in social status between us as “adult” and “young person” and the fact that older people are seen as wiser and more worthy of being listened to, whereas younger people are often seen as not having anything valid to say due to lack of life experience. And here was this “older person who knows best.” actually advising me to endanger my life and those of other people.

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