The debate has raged for years. Some have said that as we grow up, we are seeking rules by which life is lived. Others have said that rules are bad and cause young people to rebel.
An eight-year national study of 2,000 adolescents should help settle the debate. Researchers studied the influence of family, community and peer values among teenagers. Teens were selected from urban, suburban and rural settings.
They concluded that teens are “desperately” – their word – looking for the rules by which life is lived. They found that family and community values play a more important part of teens’ lives than peer values. If parents are offering consistent values, teens will adopt those values before they will accept peer values. Researchers found that in urban areas there generally is a conflict between the values set by parents and those set by other elements in the community such as schools. Teens often responded to this disharmony by rejecting all rules and making up their own. Street gangs would be one of the most extreme examples of this reaction.
The Bible strongly encourages parents, and especially fathers, to teach their children. This research shows that young people are looking for that instruction from their parents. At the same time, young people need to see that the society their parents have created consistently follows the same values.