, Volume 31, Issue 5, pp 331-342

Sense of Community and Positive Adult Beliefs Toward Adolescents and Youth Policy in Urban Neighborhoods and Small Cities

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Abstract

Understanding adult beliefs about adolescents is an emerging issue for researchers and policy-makers. The purposes of this study were to describe adult beliefs regarding the motivation and ability of young people to contribute to their communities, and to test the hypothesis that adults with a strong sense of community would have more positive views of young people and youth policies. Two samples of adults—a race/ethnically diverse population from an urban northeast city (N = 321) and a more homogeneous population from smaller cities in a midwest state (N = 430)—were queried through telephone interviews. Parallel analyses were conducted to compare the pattern of results across the 2 distinct populations. In both samples, upwards to 60% of adults had moderate-to-strong appraisals of adolescents as community resources. Adults from the midwest, however, tended to have more favorable beliefs about adolescents. Adult beliefs about adolescents and youth policy were largely independent of sociodemographic background. In contrast, and as predicted, adult sense of community and safety accounted most significantly for individual variation in beliefs in both populations. The results indicate that society may be receptive to a new frame of reference about young people, and that local efforts to build a sense of community among adults may result in more positive beliefs about adolescents.