A cultural gap exists between each generation, and teens may feel torn between the pressures of their friends or peers and the traditional expectations of their families. Teens have their own culture that may be more permissive of many differences that were considered taboo or uncouth in earlier generations. Many teens struggle to overcome these problems and may suffer emotional repercussions as a result of them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that suicide is the third leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 24. Other, more common, symptoms of cultural problems include:
- Feelings of isolation
- Incidences of bullying
- Rebellious behavior and aggression
- Lack of consideration for the culture of others
The Impact of Cultural Differences
Cultural differences take many different forms. These range from clothing choices to major lifestyle decisions and can leave many teens bewildered as to how to reconcile their family cultures and that of their peers. Parental opinions weigh heavily at home, but may be abandoned for those espoused by friends and teen idols, musicians or other popular figures when a teen interacts with her friends and peers. Clashes between teen culture and family culture can cause problems at school and poor performance in many different social settings.
Sexual and Racial Identities
Sexual orientation has become a much more openly discussed issue amongst teens than it was in prior generations. Many parents struggle to come to grips with lifestyle choices and orientation issues that teens face. Teens may have friends who tend towards alternative lifestyles and homosexual or bisexual orientations, and they may even find themselves faced with similar situations. Cultural pressures may force teens to attempt to hide their sexual identities or put them at odds with peers if they openly adopt an unpopular stance on these issues. Teens may also struggle with reconciling their racial identities and place in culture as a whole.
Violence and Aggression in Culture
Many different forms of music, movies and other pop culture elements depict great amounts of violence and aggression. While many teens can tell the difference between works of fiction and reality, some desensitization may take place. Instances of bullying are very common in teen culture. The CDC reports that 19.9 percent of high school students experienced bullying at school within a year of the study. Open displays of cultural aggression and violence may erupt as teens attempt to deal with their personal stance on many issues.
Overcoming Cultural Differences
Cultural differences continue to emerge with each successive generation. Families struggled in the past with racial identities, sexual orientation and aggression, and will likely continue to do so in the next few generations. A healthy family relationship dictates the necessity of open conversation and support from family members in assisting a teen with overcoming these differences. The choices made by a teen can have a long-reaching impact on the family, and family traditions may have much to say about such decisions. Ultimately, teens will have to make their own decisions when their cultural beliefs differ from those of their friends. It may be helpful for teens to talk to a counselor, teacher or mental health professional about these issues.