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The Importance of Adult Role Models in Teen's Lives

by Stephen Maughan, studioD

The teenage years are a time when teens are fast approaching adulthood, but they still need adult guidance. According to Professor of Psychology at Illinois State University Laura Berk, strong adult role models help promote positive behavior and responsibility in teens. J Roy Hopkins, author of "Adolescence: The Transitional Years," also argues that if teens have good adult role models, then they are less likely to engage in teenage delinquency.

Role of the Parents

Berk believes that teens become psychologically distanced from their parents, the role of parents and other adult family members in promoting good behavior in their children is very strong. According to Berk, although a teen's friends have greater influence over day-to-day matters like dress and choice of music, parents have a far greater impact on a teen's life choices and morals -- and so parents should try to be a good role model and encourage good behavior.

Behavior of Adults

Hopkins believes that although teens are searching for their own identify they are highly influenced by the behavior of adults they have regular contact with. Berk also notes that children who come from unstable homes and who see adults engaging in antisocial behavior might think this behavior is part of the adult world and copy it. So if a teen witnesses another adult hitting another when angry, they may regard violence as the accepted adult way of resolving conflict, but if the teen sees adults talking together about their problems, the teen will copy this behavior.

Other Adults

Positive adult role models can also be found outside the family, and can include teachers, sports coaches, church leaders and community leaders like Boys and Girls Clubs leaders who install self confidence and hope in teen lives. Teens are also influenced by adults they do not directly know, such as political leaders. According to a survey by the Burma Group, teens view President Obama as a role model, and are inspired by his self-confidence, determination and hard work.


Berk claims adolescents look for role models from Television shows. If a teen watches shows with positive adult role models, such as a hard working single mother raising her children, the teen is likely to be influenced. However, a report in USA Today shows a link between aggressive behavior in teens from watching violent TV shows. The Nancy Carlsson-Paige website also claims that teens who watch a lot of violent and aggressive TV shows and movies can become desensitized to violence and Berk believes there is then an additional danger of the teen displaying violent behavior thinking again it is the "normal" accepted part of adult life.

About the Author

Stephen Maughan is a journalist based in Sussex, England. He has written for a variety of lifestyle and family magazines, including "Readers' Digest," "Playground," "Fine Books," "Dog's Today" and "Modern Mum." Maughan holds a postgraduate certificate in journalism from the National Council for the Training of Journalists.

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