The research firm Child Trends released a report recently about the High School Class of 2013. Here are a few of the numbers that stood out to me.
As they say, “Imagine a senior class of 100” students.
• 71 have experienced physical assault; 28 have been victimized sexually; 32 have experienced some form of child maltreatment.
• 68 will go on to a college or university.
• 64 have had sexual intercourse.
• 51 used NO alcohol, cigarettes, or illicit drugs during the past 30 days
• 48 are sexually active (64 have had sexual intercourse)
• 45 watch less than an hour of TV on weekdays; 20 watch 4 or more hours on weekdays
• 39 have ever been bullied, physically or emotionally; 16 have been bullied in the past year
• 35 eat meals together with their families 6 or 7 days a week
• 29 felt “sad and hopeless” continuously for at least two weeks during the past year
• 28 attend religious services at least once at week
• 24 were binge-drinking in the past two weeks.
• 23 smoked marijuana in the past 30 days
• 21 had a sexually transmitted infection in the past year
• 14 thought seriously about attempting suicide in the past year
• 12 have ADHD
• 10 reported they were victims of dating violence in the past year
• 10 report they have been raped
I was surprised that 35 of 100 regularly have meals with their families. In some families, work patterns make this almost impossible, but for most families, it’s a possible but increasingly rare thing to have family meals. Many experts believe that meals together is one basic marker of how connected a family is, and, very likely, how good of a sense parents have about how their children are doing. My colleague Howard Markman and I were doing a training in Norway years ago, and I remember that the Norwegians had a strong tradition of families singing folk songs and having dinner together. This was years ago, but at the time, they had recently gone from just having a couple of national TV channels to having cable and scores of channels. I still remember clearly one of our colleagues there telling us how having many channels on TV had rapidly started to wipe out family meals. That’s very sad. That’s the simple type of stuff that probably matters a lot for how children will do in life.
It’s not surprising that the data show that most high school students have had sex and nearly half are sexually active. But that’s a lot of opportunity for sliding into life altering consequences at a young age in life. As one example or risk, 21 of 100 report having had an STD within the past year. That’s a lot of disease.
The data that stood out most to me in these numbers are the ones about binge drinking and smoking marijuana. Nearly a quarter of high school seniors have done one or the other recently, as of the time surveyed, which means a lot of teens do one or both regularly.
There is some good news here, such as in the number of students who will go to college. Not everyone can, should, or needs to, but that high number reflects some opportunity for a lot of seniors. Of course, not all those 68 of 100 will really go to college, and many fewer will complete college.
Overall, these numbers reflect a lot of evidence of how much risk older teens are regularly taking on. If you are a parent and your teenager is at all open to it, hang out with him or her a bit more. Get a meal together. Play a game. Go out and do something he or she likes. Whenever you have a little opportunity, talk with your teenage about whatever he or she will talk about, day-to-day. That way, you will have the most relationship possible to talk about what he or she might need to talk about some day in the future.
You can read more about the research findings, here.
[Their technical note: Child Trends Senior Research Scientist David Murphey provided the statistical composite by examining available data for U.S. high school seniors (or youth of about that age) that are nationally representative, and as close in time to 2013 as is available.]