Youth is a socially constructed intermediary phase, but often means the time between childhood and adulthood (maturity). It is also defined as "the appearance, freshness, vigor, spirit, etc., characteristic of one who is young". Its definitions of a specific age range varies, as youth is not defined chronologically as a stage that can be tied to specific age ranges; nor can its end point be linked to specific activities, such as taking unpaid work or having sexual relations. An individual's actual maturity may not correspond to their chronological age, as immature individuals can exist at all ages.
Youth research has come to define youth through personal experience, especially in terms of an individual's level dependency, which can be marked in various ways according to different cultural perspectives. Personal experience is marked by an individual's cultural norms or traditions while a youth's level of dependency refers to the extent to which they still rely on their family emotionally and economically.
Terminology and definitions
Around the world, the English terms youth, adolescent, teenager, kid, and young person are interchanged, often meaning the same thing, but they are occasionally differentiated. Youth can be referred to as the time of life when one is young. This involves childhood, and the time of life which is neither childhood nor adulthood, but rather somewhere in between. Youth also identifies a particular mindset of attitude, as in "He is very youthful". For certain uses, such as employment statistics, the term also sometimes refers to individuals from the ages of 14 to 21.
While recognizing that member states use different chronologies to define youth, the United Nations defines youth as persons between the ages of 15 and 24 with all UN statics based on this definition. The UN also recognizes that a useful distintion can be made between teenagers (i.e. those between the ages of 13 and 19) and young adults (those betwen the ages of 20 and 24). While seeking to impose some uniformity on statistical approaches, the UN itself is aware of contradictions between aproaches in its own statues. Hence under the 15-24 definition (introduced in 1981) children are defined as those under the age of 14 while under the 1979 Convention on the Rights of the Child, those under the age of 18 are regarded as children.
Although linked to biological processes of development and aging, youth is also defined as a social position that reflects the meanings different cultures and societies give to individuals between childhood and adulthood. Scholars argue that age-based definitions have not been consistent across cultures or times and that thus it is more accurate to focus on social processes in the transition to adult independence for defining youth.
- "This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease." - Robert Kennedy
Youth is an alternative word for the scientifically-oriented adolescent and the common terms teen and teenager. Other common terms for youth are young person and young people.
Youth is the stage of constructing the self-concept. The self-concept of youth is influenced by several variables such as peers, lifestyle, gender, and culture. It is the time of a person's life in which they make choices which will affect their future.
In much of sub-Saharan Africa, the term "youth" is associated with young men from 15 to 30 or even 35 years of age. Youth in Nigeria includes all members of the Federal Republic of Nigeria aged 18-35. Many African girls experience youth as a brief interlude between the onset of puberty and marriage and motherhood. But in urban settings, poor women are often considered youth much longer, even if they bear children outside of marriage. Varying culturally, the gender constructions of youth in Latin America and Southeast Asia differ from those of sub-Saharan Africa. In Vietnam, widespread notions of youth are sociopolitical constructions for both sexes between the ages of 15 and 35.
In Brazil, the term "youth" refers to people of both sexes from 15 or 18 to 25 years old. This age bracket reflects the influence on Brazilian law of international organizations like the World Health Organization. It is also shaped by the notion of adolescece that has entered everyday life in Brazil through a discourse on children's rights.
August 12 was declared International Youth Day by the United Nations.
School and education
Young people spend much of their lives in educational settings, and their experiences in schools, colleges and universities can shape much of their subsequent lifes. Research shows that poverty and income affect the likelihood for the incompletion of high school. These factors also increase the likelihood for the youth to not go to a college or university.
The leading causes of morbidity and mortality among youth and adults are due to certain health-risk behaviors. These behaviors are often established during youth and extend into adulthood. Since the risk behaviors in adulthood and youth are interrelated, problems in adulthood are preventable by influencing youth behavior.
A 2004 mortality study of youth (defined in this study as ages 10–24) mortality worldwide found that 97% of deaths occurred in low to middle-income countries, with the majority in southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Maternal conditions accounted for 15% of female deaths, while HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis were responsible for 11% of deaths; 14% of male and 5% of female deaths were attributed to traffic accidents, the largest cause overall. Violence accounted for 12% of male deaths. Suicide was the cause of 6% of all deaths.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed its Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) in 2003 to help assess risk behavior. YRBSS monitors six categories of priority health-risk behaviors among youth and young adults:
- behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries and violence;
- tobacco, alcohol and other drug use;
- sexual behaviors that contribute to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection;
- unhealthy dietary behaviors;
- physical inactivity—plus overweight.
YRBSS includes a national school-based survey conducted by CDC as well as state and local school-based surveys conducted by education and health agencies.
Obesity now affects one in five children in the United States, and is the most prevalent nutritional disease of children and adolescents in the United States. Although obesity-associated morbidities occur more frequently in adults, significant consequences of obesity as well as the antecedents of adult disease occur in obese children and adolescents.
Discrimination against overweight children begins early in childhood and becomes progressively institutionalized. Because obese children tend to be taller than their non-overweight peers, they are apt to be viewed as more mature. The inappropriate expectations that result may have an adverse effect on their socialization.
Many of the cardiovascular consequences that characterize adult-onset obesity are preceded by abnormalities that begin in childhood. Hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and abnormal glucose tolerance occur with increased frequency in obese children and adolescents. The relationship of cardiovascular risk factors to visceral fat independent of total body fat remains unclear. Sleep apnea, pseudotumor cerebri, and Blount's disease represent major sources of morbidity for which rapid and sustained weight reduction is essential. Although several periods of increased risk appear in childhood, it is not clear whether obesity with onset early in childhood carries a greater risk of adult morbidity and mortality.
Bullying among school-aged youth is increasingly being recognized as an important problem affecting well-being and social functioning. While a certain amount of conflict and harassment is typical of youth peer relations, bullying presents a potentially more serious threat to healthy youth development. The definition of bullying is widely agreed on in literature on bullying.
The majority of research on bullying has been conducted in Europe and Australia. Considerable variability among countries in the prevalence of bullying has been reported. In an international survey of adolescent health-related behaviors, the percentage of students who reported being bullied at least once during the current term ranged from a low of 15% to 20% in some countries to a high of 70% in others. Of particular concern is frequent bullying, typically defined as bullying that occurs once a week or more. The prevalence of frequent bullying reported internationally ranges from a low of 1.9% among one Irish sample to a high of 19% in a Malta study.
Research examining characteristics of youth involved in bullying has consistently found that both bullies and those bullied demonstrate poorer psychosocial functioning than their non-involved peers. Youth who bully others tend to demonstrate higher levels of conduct problems and dislike of school, whereas youth who are bullied generally show higher levels of insecurity, anxiety, depression, loneliness, unhappiness, physical and mental symptoms, and low self-esteem. Males who are bullied also tend to be physically weaker than males in general. The few studies that have examined the characteristics of youth who both bully and are bullied found that these individuals exhibit the poorest psychosocial functioning overall.
Sexual health and politics
Globalization and transnational flows have had tangible effects on sexual relations, identities, and subjectivities. In the wake of an increasingly globalized world order under waning Western dominance, within ideologies of modernity, civilization, and programs for social improvement, discourses on population control, 'safe sex', and 'sexual rights'. Sex education programmes grounded in evidence-based approaches are a cornerstone in reducing adolescent sexual risk behaviours and promoting sexual health. In addition to providing accurate information about consequences of STIs and early pregnancy, such programmes build life skills for interpersonal communication and decision making. such programmes are most commonly implemented in schools, which reach large numbers of teenagers in areas where school enrollment rates are high. However, since not all young people are in school, sex education programmes have also been implemented in clinics, juvenile detention centers and youth-oriented community agencies. Notably, some programmes have been found to reduce risky sexual behaviours when implemented in both school and community settings with only minor modifications to the curricula.
In the Global South
The vast majority of young people live in developing countries: according to the UN, globally around 85 per cent of 15-24 year-olds live in developing countries, a figure projected to grow 89.5 per cent by 2025. Moreover, this majority are extremely diverse: some live in rural areas but many inhabit the overcrowded metropolises of India, Asia and South America, some live traditional lives in tribal societies, while others participate in global youth culture in ghetto contexts.
Many young lives in developing countries are defined by poverty, some suffer from famine and a lack of clean water, while involvement in armed conflict is all common. Health problems are rife, especially due to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in certain regions. The United Nations estimates that 200 million young people live in poverty, 130 million are illiterate and 10 million live with HIV/AIDS.
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