Sober teens shun rebellion

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The Independent Online
Today's teenagers are unlikely to be storming the barricades to demand their rights, according to a new survey commissioned by Barnado's. Instead, they think the legal age for marriage should be raised to 18, see a good education as essential and want to see the death penalty restored.

In one of the most comprehensive surveys ever of young people's attitudes, it emerges that rather than rebelling against their parents, teenagers respect adults' points of view. More than nine out of ten young people believe parents should have a say in what is taught in schools. And six out of ten believe that sex education for under-12s should be at the discretion of their parents.

Three-quarters think that being well-educated is "essential" or "very important". Formal exams are seen as the best way of judging ability by nearly half and 80 per cent feel that publishing exam results of secondary schools is useful for parents.

Even so, 57 per cent worry about getting a job at the end of their education.

Tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime, young people think that reducing poverty would be an effective way of dealing with it, along with more discipline in school and in families.

More than 60 per cent think that the courts should be able to sentence murderers to death.

Even at the younger end of the scale, there is deep suspicion of the fairness of the justice system in Britain today. Given a scenario in which two people appeared in court charged with an offence they did not commit, 44 per cent thought that an Afro-Caribbean was more likely to be found guilty than someone white and 64 per cent felt that a poor person was more likely to be found guilty than someone rich.

The survey, in which 12 to 19-year-olds were interviewed about race, gender, crime, morality and politics, discovered that they were clearer on what they thought of God than what they they thought of politics. While a quarter said that they did not know how they would vote, nearly 60 per cent said they believed in God.

But this generation at least seem more committed to equality than those which went before. They believe in living together before and as an alternative to marriage, and think that a single parent can bring up a child just as well as two.

Saturday story, page 17