Most Teens Feel They Get Trust They've Earned

by Linda Lyons, Education and Youth Editor

Freedom related to trust

Trust is always a two-way street, and it's important for a parent and child to keep it free of roadblocks, especially during the often-volatile teenage years. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of 13- to 17-year-old respondents in a recent Gallup Youth Survey* say they get the trust they deserve from their parents or guardians. Just 21% say their parents or guardians don't trust them as much as they should.

In Their Own Words

Gallup also asked teens, in an open-ended format, to give their reasons for answering the question the way they did. The following comments are only a few examples of teens who talk about the mutual level of trust between themselves and their parents.

  • I have never given my parents a reason not to trust me.
  • I earned their respect and trust so they know I'm not going to do anything I can't tell them about.
  • My parents trust me a lot. When I do screw up, I tell them so I can keep their trust.
  • They know I am responsible and that I am able to make my own decisions.
  • I have been raised in a Christian home; we believe in the same moral code; they trust me, I trust them.

The minority of teen respondents who say they do not share an acceptable level of trust with their parents have their own reasons for responding the way they did.

  • My father will not allow me to drive until I'm 18 or be driven by other teenagers. He will not let me out of the house unless he's the one taking me.
  • They put too much trust in me and it is a big disappointment to them when I do something wrong.
  • My parents are paranoid about my doing something disastrous if I'm with my friends.
  • My parents do not give me enough credit for behaving well.
  • They don't let me do anything or go anywhere unless they know everything about where I am going.

Trust and Perceptions of Freedom

Seventy-three percent of teen respondents tell Gallup that, in general, teens have enough or more than enough freedom in their lives (see "Freedom Rings for Most U.S. Teens" in Related Items). Respondents who express this are more likely than respondents who feel teens don't receive enough freedom to say they, themselves, get the trust they deserve from their parents. Eighty-three percent of teens who say teens have the right amount or too much freedom say they receive the appropriate amount of trust. In contrast, only 48% of respondents who say that teens generally don't have enough freedom say that their parents trust them enough.

"I think with all the news propaganda, they see all teens as juvenile delinquents," says another young respondent, referring to his perception of his parents' view of teenagers. These are, perhaps, words of some wisdom from a teen who apparently feels he's more trustworthy than his parents give him credit. It is true that bad news travels fast and far, and the daily news is proof of that.

Bottom Line

According to George Gallup Jr., who has been studying high school teens since 1977, "American teens report that by and large they are happy and excited about the future, feel very close to their families, see college in their future, say they are likely to marry, want to have children, are satisfied with their personal lives, desire to reach the top of their chosen careers, expect to live to a ripe-old age, and want to experience spiritual growth in their lives." It's no wonder their parents trust them.

*These results are based on mail and Web surveys with a randomly selected national sample of 549 teenagers in the Gallup Poll Panel of households, aged 13 to 17, conducted April 15 to May 22, 2005. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±5 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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