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Why Do Teenagers Need Role Models?

by Tanya Brown

Good role models set positive examples for teenagers and help counter negative influences they encounter during adolescence. It's common for teenagers to view movie stars, sports figures, singers and TV actors as role models. While entertainment figures can serve as positive influences, teenagers gain greater influence from role models they can communicate and form relationships with. More than 75 percent of children in the United States look to relatives, coaches, teachers and community leaders as role models, according to a 2008-2009 survey conducted by the Horatio Alger Association.

Same-Sex Parents

Teenagers generally observe, learn and copy the behaviors of their same-sex parent. A boy who looks up to his father is likely to mimic his behaviors, follow his advice and adopt his core beliefs and values. He is also likely to raise his children similarly to how his father raised him. The most powerful influence in a teenager’s life is the same-sex parent, according to TV personality and author Dr. Phil McGraw. How a same-sex parent handles conflict, demonstrates love, takes care of his physical health and handles his finances affects how teenagers do the same.

Teachers and Coaches

Teachers instill the value of hard work, encourage intellectual curiosity and help shape a teen’s social development. The repeated support and praise teachers provide can also enhance a teen’s confidence and push him to reach his potential. Coaches help teenagers to understand the value of teamwork. They also encourage teenagers to work hard and stay physically fit. Most teachers and coaches are valued members of communities and can have a lasting effect on teens.

Public Figures

Public figures who have overcome difficulties can also serve as positive influences in a teenager’s life. Michael Jordan was cut from his basketball team in high school and went on to become one of the best basketball players of all time. Billionaire Richard Branson, a poor academic performer who suffers from dyslexia, went on to become the founder and CEO of more than 400 companies. Oprah Winfrey, who experienced repeated sexual abuse as a child and comes from extreme poverty, is one of the most successful media figures in history. Many teenagers consider those and countless other public figures to be positive role models because of their ability to achieve success despite their hardships.

Older Siblings

Older teens who do well in school, have excellent social skills and take responsibility for their actions can serve as positive role models for their younger siblings. It is common for teenagers to look up to an older brother or sister, especially those of the same sex. Older siblings generally understand the pressures of today’s society better than parents, making them more relatable to younger teens. Older siblings can also give their younger brother or sister advice on topics they might feel uncomfortable discussing with their parents, such as dealing with peer pressure or sex.

About the Author

Before starting her writing career, Tanya Brown worked as an eighth-grade language arts teacher. She also has a background in nursing, with extensive experience in urology, neurology and neurosurgery clinics. Brown holds a bachelor's degree in psychology and is pursuing her master’s degree in educational psychology.

Photo Credits

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