Skip to main content
Get Help Escape

Prevention preview: NSAC 2014

Chances are you’ve heard us spreading the word about the National Sexual Assault Conference. This prevention palooza is right around the corner. NSAC 2014 will be celebrating the many voices, fields, disciplines and backgrounds in the movement to end sexual violence. Whether or not you will be in Pittsburgh, you are invited to share your voice in the movement to end sexual violence. You can even submit a video to a collection being featured at NSAC. 

At NSAC, I’m excited to have the opportunity to be sharing about healthy sexuality and young people. I’ll be presenting with Alison McKee (Bellavance) on the ideas inspiring our SAAM 2014 campaign. Our session will cover a lot of ground, but I thought I’d share a preview of our prevention workshop on working with youth. My last post focused on resilience in young people; let’s continue the conversation by looking at how adults can be allies. 

Yes, resilience is a key to positive youth development. Adults can be an ally to young people supporting the development of resilience and promotion of sexual health. Unfortunately, there is a weed in this garden of growth and development. I’m talking about adultism. Adultism is a serious obstacle to positive relationships between youth and adults. 

What is adultism?

Adultism is a term for the oppression of young people. 

Adultism refers to “behaviors and attitudes based on the assumption that adults are better than young people, and entitled to act upon young people without their agreement” (Bell, 1995, p. 1).

Like other forms of oppression, adultism can be seen in attitudes, stereotypes, social norms, and actions discriminating against young people. These assumptions often stand in the way of adults taking young people seriously and valuing their experiences, ideas and leadership.  

Kids these days

The defining challenge of adultism is how normal and accepted it is in our society. In fact, adultism is part of all of our experience. Everyone has been young and likely experienced similar treatment at this stage. The negative attitudes and assumptions of adults discourage both young people and adults. It also leads to less effective communication and programming. Yikes! Let’s get to weeding. 

Being an adult ally

Effective youth engagement means overcoming adultism. Adult allies start by listening. They respond to young people’s development needs by promoting their strength, confidence and power. Maybe most importantly, they work to eliminate adultism. Are you up for the challenge? Whether or not you are able to join us at NSAC, you can be involved. You can learn valuable steps from our SAAM 2014 resource Strategies to become and adult ally.

Bell, J. (1995). Understanding adultism: A major obstacle to developing positive youth-adult relationships. Retrieved from YouthBuild USA:


Log in or register to post comments