At the heart of most interactions between children, youth and adults is adultism, which is the bias towards adults that causes discrimination against young people.

Whether we’re talking about education, youth work, business, schools, government organizations, or elsewhere, adultism is behind behavior, attitudes, cultures, systems, physical places and much more. When they become aware of it, youth and adultism clash mightily with young people frequently losing. Curfews, taxation without representation, compulsory education, being tried as adults and other effects are obvious throughout society.

Ways Youth can Challenge Adultism

Adultism happens in the policies, behavior, language, laws, programs, activities, culture and beliefs of our youth orgs, schools, government, businesses, faith orgs, public spaces, businesses and homes.

Youth-Led Organizing— When children and youth can’t find support from adults, or when they want to do it on their own, facing adultism and taking action can be essential. Youth-led organizing means standing in front of families, schools, organizations, communities and the world to call out bias towards adults and defeat the deafening ignorance of constant adultism everywhere, all the time.

Youth/Adult Partnerships— Forming intentional relationships with adults can defeat adultism on many levels. Adults can discover new ways of being and interacting with children and youth, and young people can find new hope for adults and society. Youth/adult partnerships can happen throughout society, too!

Youth-Led Programming— Through deliberate education and meaningful action, young people can learn to design, implement, facilitate, evaluate and and advocate programs that matter to young people from the perspectives of young people. That means taking deliberate steps to challenge both internalized adultism and other forms, too.

Things Youth Need to Challenge Adultism

All adults are adultist.

Education— Starting with practical reflection focused on their life experiences, every young person and adults of all ages can learn more about adultism. Education can focus on the pillars of adultism (culture, attitudes and systems) or taking action to challenge adultism through advocacy, organizing and social change.

Opportunities— Challenging adultism can happen in many ways, including structured programs in nonprofits, schools and other community settings. Through anti-adultism programs, young people and adults can work together, become educated and take action to make a difference.

Inspiration— Living in cultures and experiencing structures of adultism every single day can exhaust any young person, tax their motivation and depress their inherent hopefulness for the world. Inspiration to challenge motivation can mean sharing stories, personal examples, and learning about opportunities for meaningful action throughout their lives.

Learn About Adultism

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Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can help face adultism in your community or organization, contact us.

Order FACING ADULTISM by Freechild founder Adam Fletcher at
Order FACING ADULTISM by Freechild founder Adam Fletcher!

4 thoughts on “Adultism

  1. You got the definition of “adultism” wrong in the first paragraph on this site when you write “adultism, the bias towards adults” – You probably want to say that adultism is the bias towards YOUNG PEOPLE.

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