Archive for May, 2010

Spring is graduation season for millions of students. What are the aspirations of today’s teenagers as they think about their future? A new research study from the Barna Group examined a representative, nationwide sample of 602 teenagers, asking them to describe what they think their life will be like roughly 10 years from now, when they are young adults.

To help teens respond with a specific time horizon in mind, the survey asked them what they believe their lives will be like when they are 25-years-old.
College and Career
The most common aspirations of teenagers were related to college and their professional pursuits. Finishing a college degree was their top-rated future priority. A majority of teenagers felt certain that they would accomplish this goal by age 25. In all, 93% of teenagers said they would either definitely or probably obtain a college degree by their mid-twenties. In terms of career, 81% of teenagers felt they are likely to have a “great-paying job” by the time they are 25. Displaying their we-want-it-all perspective, 80% of teens also believed they would be serving in a “job where they can make a difference” by that age.
God and Global
Having a connection with God and international travel emerged as second-level priorities. Nearly three-quarters of teenagers felt they would have a close, personal relationship with God (72%) in the next decade or so. About seven out of 10 youths (71%) said they will definitely or probably have traveled to other countries by their mid-twenties.
Family and Church
Marriage and church involvement were on the third tier of aspirations. Most American teenagers expect to be engaged in these traditional institutions (58% and 63%, respectively). However, only a small percentage felt certain about these outcomes in their own lives: 29% of teenagers felt they would definitely be “actively involved in a church or faith community” and just 12% of teenagers felt certain about “being married” by age 25. Teenagers are even less likely to entertain traditional goals regarding parenting. Less than half of teenagers (40%) felt they may have children by age 25 and only one out of 11 (9%) said they would definitely become a parent in their early adult years. Of course, considerations of marriage and parenting are dependent on finding a willing partner; nonetheless, these pursuits are not top priorities for most students.
Fame versus Service
Media are filled with celebrity news and obscure-turned-famous individuals often made stars via reality television. Given the cultural fascination with fame, perhaps it is not surprising that one-quarter of teenagers (26%) said they expect to be “famous or well known” by the time they reach age 25. To their credit, teens are more likely to express the desire to be “regularly serving the poor” (48%) than to be famous, although that priority is less flattering considering that only 7% of teenagers said they would definitely be doing such other-oriented work as a young adult.
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The Barna Group (which includes its research division, the Barna Research Group) is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization that conducts primary research on a wide range of issues and products, produces resources pertaining to cultural change, leadership and spiritual development, and facilitates the healthy spiritual growth of leaders, children, families and Christian ministries. Located in Ventura, California, Barna has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984. If you would like to receive free e-mail notification of the release of each new, bi-monthly update on the latest research findings from The Barna Group, you may subscribe to this free service at the Barna website (www.barna.org). Additional research-based resources, both free and at discounted prices, are also available through that website.