top of page

Effects of Adultism on Youth Mental Health!

Effects of Adultism on Youth Mental Health!

In a world dominated by adults, young people often find themselves at the mercy of a concept known as adultism. This subtle yet powerful form of discrimination can profoundly affect the mental health and well-being of the youth. In this blog, we embark on a journey to explore the intricate relationship between adultism and the mental health of our young generation.

While adultism may not be as readily recognized as other -isms, such as racism or sexism, its impact is no less profound. The pervasive notion is that adults are superior to young people solely by age and should wield control over their lives. The consequences of this bias are far-reaching, affecting young people's self-esteem, confidence, and mental health.

Join us as we delve deeper into the world of adultism, unravel its roots, and examine its profound effects on our youth's mental health. Together, we'll explore the challenges young people face in a society that often dismisses their voices and the crucial need for change.

Effects of Adultism on Youth Mental Health

What is Adultism?

Often overlooked and underestimated, adultism is a pervasive form of discrimination rooted in age bias. Just as racism and sexism involve the discriminatory treatment of individuals based on race or gender, adultism revolves around the notion that adults inherently hold superiority over young people, granting them authority and control. This insidious bias permeates numerous facets of a young person's life, profoundly affecting their mental health.

The crux of the issue lies in societal norms, historical traditions, and cultural expectations that perpetuate adultism. Young people are frequently marginalized, their voices dismissed or disregarded. This systemic dismissal fosters feelings of powerlessness, inadequacy, and frustration among the youth. These emotions culminate in anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and pervasive alienation. Acknowledging and dismantling this harmful belief system is paramount in fostering a society that values and respects individuals regardless of age.

The Root of the Problem

To truly understand the profound effects of adultism on youth mental health, it's crucial to explore this issue's underlying causes and origins. Adultism is a deeply ingrained bias from various sources, including historical traditions, cultural norms, and societal expectations.

Historical Traditions

One of the primary sources of adultism lies in historical traditions. Throughout history, older generations have held positions of power and authority. This historical hierarchy often led to the marginalization of young people and their voices. In many cultures, respecting one's elders is deeply embedded, but this respect often translates into an imbalance of power, leaving young people feeling disempowered and undervalued.

Cultural Norms

Cultural norms play a significant role in perpetuating adultism. Many societies emphasize obedience, conformity, and respect for authority figures. As a result, young people are expected to follow these norms, often suppressing their thoughts and desires. This pressure to conform to adult expectations can create an environment where youth voices are silenced, further exacerbating the issue of adultism.

Societal Expectations

Societal expectations compound the problem. Young people are frequently held to specific standards and expectations set by adults. These expectations can be unrealistic, and the failure to meet them can lead to feelings of inadequacy and stress. The constant pressure to measure up to adult-defined ideals can significantly impact the mental health of young individuals.

A Cycle of Neglect

One of adultism's most profound and damaging consequences on youth mental health is the perpetuation of a relentless cycle of neglect. This cycle is deeply intertwined with the discriminatory attitudes and behaviors that young people face due to their age, creating a self-perpetuating system of harm.

Initial Impact

The cycle begins with the initial impact of adultism. When confronted with adultist attitudes, young people often experience various negative emotions. They may feel marginalized, invalidated, and belittled by those who are supposed to guide and support them. Essentially, they're denied the right to express themselves and participate fully in decision-making processes at home, school, or society.

Emotional Responses

Young people frequently experience a surge of emotional responses in response to adultism. These include:

  1. Frustration and Anger: Young people may become frustrated and angry at their inability to influence their lives. They may perceive their opinions and experiences as disregarded, leading to an overwhelming sense of injustice.

  2. Powerlessness: Adultism can lead to feelings of powerlessness. When young individuals are consistently treated as if their perspectives are unimportant, they may start to believe that they cannot effect change or assert their autonomy.

  3. Inadequacy: Constant exposure to adultism can make young people feel inadequate and unworthy. They might internalize the message that they are less valuable and capable than adults, eroding their self-esteem.

Reinforcement of Adultist Perspectives

The cycle is particularly insidious because the emotional responses to adultism often reinforce adultist perspectives. Adults who hold these biases may perceive the emotional reactions of young people as proof of their immaturity or irrationality. Consequently, the adults may dismiss or invalidate the emotions directly resulting from the discriminatory treatment.

Consequences for Mental Health

As we've discussed, adultism has profound implications for young people's mental health. The discrimination and prejudice they face based on age can manifest in several ways, leading to various mental health challenges. Here, we'll delve deeper into the specific consequences of adultism on youth mental well-being.


One of the most prevalent and immediate consequences of adultism is anxiety. Young people who experience adultism often feel pressured to conform to adult expectations. They fear being invalidated or ignored, leading to chronic worry and stress. These feelings of apprehension can be overwhelming and detrimental to their overall mental health.

The anxiety induced by adultism is often rooted in the fear of not meeting the perceived standards set by adults. This fear can lead to constant vigilance, where young individuals are constantly on edge, anticipating criticism or dismissal. Chronic anxiety can significantly impact their daily lives, affecting their ability to focus, sleep, and interact socially.


Another serious consequence of adultism is depression. When young people repeatedly face discrimination and dismissal based on age, they can develop feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. The lack of autonomy and respect in their interactions with adults can make them feel trapped and undervalued.

Young individuals may internalize the message that their opinions and experiences are unimportant, which can lead to deep-seated sadness and despair. The symptoms of depression can vary from persistent low mood and loss of interest in activities to changes in appetite and sleep disturbances. The emotional burden of depression further hinders their ability to cope with the challenges of daily life.

Low Self-Esteem

Adultism can have a devastating impact on the self-esteem of young people. When they repeatedly experience dismissal and belittlement, they may begin to internalize these negative messages. The belief that their opinions and experiences hold no value can erode their self-worth and confidence.

Low self-esteem is often linked to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. Young individuals may doubt their abilities and self-worth, hindering their personal and social development. Over time, this negative self-perception can affect their mental health and overall well-being.


Feeling unheard, disregarded, and discriminated against due to age can lead to alienation. Young people may believe they don't fit into an adult-dominated world. This sense of not belonging can exacerbate their mental health issues.

Alienation can manifest as withdrawal from social interactions, isolation, and disconnection from their peers and the broader community. The emotional toll of alienation can be profound, intensifying the loneliness and despair associated with depression and anxiety.

Breaking the Cycle: Fostering Youth Empowerment

Breaking the cycle of adultism is not only crucial but also achievable. To mitigate adultism's harmful effects on young people's mental health, we must actively work to empower them, challenge biased attitudes, and create a more inclusive and supportive environment. Here's a closer look at how we can achieve this:

Encouraging Youth Voice

Empowering young people to express themselves and actively listen to their voices is the first step in breaking the cycle of adultism. By creating spaces where they feel valued, respected, and heard, we can help build their self-esteem and mental resilience.

  • Peer Support Networks: Encourage young people to form peer support networks where they can discuss their experiences, share their challenges, and provide emotional support to one another. This helps them feel heard and fosters a sense of community.

  • Youth Advisory Boards: In various settings, such as schools, communities, and organizations, establish youth advisory boards where young people can contribute their insights and perspectives on relevant issues. Their input should be actively considered in decision-making processes.

  • Mentoring Programs: Create mentoring programs that pair young individuals with adult mentors who respect and encourage their ideas and growth. These mentorships can provide young people with guidance and boost their self-confidence.

Creating Safe Spaces

Safe spaces allow young people to freely express themselves without fearing judgment or discrimination. These spaces are essential for breaking the cycle of adultism and nurturing youth mental health.

  • School Clubs and Organizations: Encourage the formation of clubs and organizations in schools that cater to diverse interests and encourage open discussions. These spaces allow young people to explore their passions and share their thoughts in a supportive environment.

  • Mental Health Support Groups: Establish mental health support groups for young individuals to discuss their challenges, seek guidance, and share coping strategies. Such groups can help young people combat feelings of isolation and find solidarity.

  • Online Forums and Communities: Create online platforms or communities where young people can connect with others with similar interests or experiences. Online spaces can provide an additional avenue for self-expression and mutual support.

Challenging Adultist Attitudes

Challenging adultist attitudes within society is essential to breaking the cycle. It requires adults to recognize their own biases and actively work to treat young people with respect and dignity.

  • Education and Training: Develop educational programs and training for adults, such as parents, teachers, and community leaders, to raise awareness about adultism and its impact. These programs should emphasize the importance of treating young people as equals.

  • Promoting Active Listening: Encourage adults to actively listen to the concerns and ideas of young people, valuing their perspectives and experiences. This simple but powerful act can significantly boost a young person's self-esteem and mental well-being.

  • Advocacy and Policy Changes: Support advocacy efforts to bring about policy changes that protect the rights and dignity of young people. This can include changes in education policies, anti-discrimination laws, and youth-centered initiatives.

By encouraging youth empowerment, creating safe spaces, and challenging adultist attitudes, we can gradually break the cycle of adultism and its detrimental effects on youth mental health. It's a collective effort that requires individuals, communities, and institutions to work together to build a society where young people are valued, heard, and empowered to reach their full potential.

Parting Thought:

The effects of adultism on youth mental health are undeniable, and the consequences of this bias have far-reaching implications. Anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and a sense of alienation are just some of the many challenges faced by young people who experience adultism. Their mental well-being is undeniably compromised by a society that too often dismisses their voices and experiences.

But it doesn't have to be this way. We can break the cycle of adultism and create a world where young people are treated with respect, dignity, and equality. By encouraging youth voices, creating safe spaces for expression, and challenging adultist attitudes, we can foster an environment where young people can thrive, free from the shackles of discrimination based on age.

In our journey through this blog, we've explored the roots of adultism, its consequences for mental health, and the steps we can take to challenge and change this pervasive bias. It's a call to action for a society that values its young generation and seeks to provide them with the support and respect they need to lead healthier, happier lives. The time has come to break the cycle and create a brighter, more inclusive future for all, regardless of age.

Share It to Make a Difference. Sign Up Now!


Be the First to Expand Your
Intellectual Horizon!

bottom of page