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Challenging Adultism




According to Adam Fletcher, founder of The Freechild Project, Adultism is the addiction to the attitudes, ideas, beliefs, and actions of adults. It is a major concept in the organization of society: Adultism prevails in every sector, including government, education, social services, and families. It's defeat is often seen as a bad thing, as adults are generally only capable of seeing their own abilities as those that are truly needed to the function and well-being of our world.


The problem with adultism is that ignores, silences, neglects, and punishes children and youth simply because they are not adults. Every young person experiences adultism from the day they are born until the day the world around them recognizes them as an adult.


The Freechild Project believes that adultism is part of the structure of society and its institutions, including families, schools, churches and the government. Because of the long history of adultism and its pervasive nature in our societies, essentially all people suffer from this oppression. The resulting internalized oppression and distress patterns are severe.  For example, adultism is expressed by treating the young person as weak, helpless and less intelligent than adults.  For many, there is verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. Oppression of young people conditions them to accept all other oppressions that exist in the society.



The following resources are websites and publications Freechild has found that can help young people and adults understand adultism better, and work for social change in this area.


Publications & Websites


Understanding Adultism: A Key to Developing Positive Youth-Adult Relationships - An outstanding article that helps explore adultism, written by long-time youth worker John Bell of YouthBuild.


Kivel, P. (2006) "Adultism." from Helping Teens Stop Violence: A Practical Guide for Counselors, Educators, and Parents. Hunter House Publishing.

Pevec, M. "Adultism: A Well-Kept Secret". pdf. Margaret is a counselor in Colorado who keeps a great blog about adultism here.

Adultism - An edition of the School Mediator: Peer Mediation Insights. Includes definitions, quotes, and more.


Kelly, B. "Youthism' and Ageism in Our Movement?" Next Left Notes.


Sazama, J. (2004) Get The Word Out! Youth On Board. pdf.


Checkoway, B. (1998) Adults as Allies. WK Kellogg Foundation. pdf.


Wright, J. "Treating children as equals." New Universal Magazine. Wright is the editor of Motherwear magazine.  In this article she details how parents are complicit in adultism and how we can fight adultism at home.


Youth Wisdom Project. (2004) "Making Space - Making Change: Profiles of Youth-Led and Youth-Driven Organizations." Movement Strategy Center. pdf.


Velazquez, J. Jr. and Garin-Jones, M. "Adultism and Cultural Competence", Child Welfare League of America.


"Unit on Adultism", originally published on the Creighton University website. pdf. A four-session course on adultism, including: Session One: Introduction to adultism, exploration of stereotypes and putdowns of young people, and analyses of youth/adult interactions. Session Two: Focuses on how young people are mistreated or discriminated against in adult-defined institutions, how young people can internalize mistreatment against themselves and other youth, and explores strengths of young people. Session Three: Examines the conditioning process of becoming an adult, identifying the costs and privileges of adulthood and the requirements for being an adult ally to youth. Session four: Goes over tools to organize and take action against adultism.


Adultism and Autonomy: Youth as Deviant and In Need of Control - This university-based project from Canada and the EU explores social justice, and places adultism in the context of societal reasoning and explores the effects of adultism on young people.


Oppression Of Children And Young People - Adultism - Is The Foundation For All Forms Of Oppression - From the "American Pictures" project by Danish photographers Tony Harris and Jacob Holdt.  Explores adultism in the context of all social oppressions, including racism and sexism.


Workshop on Teens & Authority - The National Coalition Building Association of Northern Virginia offered a two hour workshop called "Teens & Authority". Scroll 2/3rds of the way down for a description.


Freechild Project Resources



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