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Gallup Vault: Pointing the Finger When Teenagers 'Go Wrong'

Gallup Vault: Pointing the Finger When Teenagers 'Go Wrong'

While often depicted with halcyon images of the nuclear family, the early 1950s was a time of much angst over rising teenage crime and other misconduct. After a Senate committee studying the issue, George Gallup in November 1954 wrote, "Why is there so much juvenile delinquency throughout the country? What are the main reasons for teenagers acting up? What can be done to make America's youngsters behave?"

The top responses given by Americans centered on parents. One in five said parents were not strict enough, nearly as many said parents weren't providing their children the proper guidance and 12% thought parents were downright neglectful. Another 10% cited parents generally or home life as the main problem. Only three problems that can't be tied directly back to parents made the top 10: the military (7%), television (6%) and lack of recreational space (5%).

1954: Americans' Top Answers to Why Teenagers Are "Acting Up"
There's been a lot of discussion recently about our teenagers getting out of hand. As you see it, what are the main reasons for their acting up?
U.S. adults
%
Parents not strict enough, not enough discipline, don't exercise enough authority 20
Parents' fault, no home training, don't set proper example, broken home 18
Parents' outside interests, not enough interest in kids, not home enough, neglect 12
Parents, home (not otherwise specified) 10
Children have too much freedom, late hours, freedom too young 8
Children have too much money, too many material possessions, pampered 8
Army, the draft 7
Parents both working 6
Television, comics, movies 6
Need recreation, playgrounds, no place for them to go 5
Should be made (taught) to work at home 5
Sept. 16-21, 1954
Gallup

A follow-up question asked Americans what could be done to "cure these conditions among our teenagers." The top responses were 1) to give youngsters more attention and supervision, 2) to provide more recreational facilities and activities, 3) to provide more discipline and less money to youngsters, 4) to give young people greater responsibility (such as a job) and 5) to re-educate parents to train them in their responsibilities.

Gallup also tested Americans' reactions to two specific remedies he explained were proposed by experts: setting 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. curfews for children under the age of 16 and holding parents responsible for any property damage their children cause. Seventy-seven percent of U.S. adults thought having a curfew for youth was a good idea, and 86% agreed with holding parents financially responsible for their children's misbehavior.

Other Gallup polls around this time explored the degree to which Americans blamed comic books for the corruption of America's youth, as well as what forms of punishment they thought were best for teens.

Read the original Gallup news release.

These data can be found in Gallup Analytics.

Read more from the Gallup Vault.

Gallup


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