What is the matter with todays young people?

Its a question asked regularly by every generation of parents and authority figures. As we move further into the 21st century, however, the struggles and weaknesses of the younger generation are more pronounced than ever before.

As MARRI intern Lindsay Smith documents in her recent post, Belonging to the Exception, young adults of Generation Y (born between 1977 and 1995) are likely to have a lackadaisical attitude toward work and therefore to be unemployed and even unemployable. Although they boast technological savvy, members of this generation also display short attention spans and the inability to discern actions and consequences.

While the factors creating this generational fault line are complex, they start in the home. Lindsay Smith says,

[O]ur culture (sitcoms saturated with sex, personal credit cards, and adult privileges sans consequences) bears some responsibility for Gen Ys behavior, but the formation of these characteristics begins with a fractured family.

The decline of the married intact family is responsible for many changes in family life, national demographics, and the economy, as MARRI research explains in 162 Reasons to Marry. One of the biggest factors is the rise of rejection index scores to over 50% nationwide. Currently, more children grow up in families whose parents have rejected each other through divorce or breakup than grow up in intact families. While family belonging is associated with positive outcomes such as educational attainment and higher income, family rejection is associated with negative outcomes such as early sexual activity, unwed teen births, and abortion, as well as child poverty and future risk of divorce.

The national trend toward family rejection has affected Generation Y by removing the stability that children need to develop a work ethic and life skills. To some extent, the media and social networking have replaced family relationships and adult role models for this generation.

But family rejection has other, graver effects that are less well known. The Gen Why Project reports there are over 1.6 million homeless youth in the United States. Of these, Over 50% of youth in shelters and on the streets report that their parents told them to leave or knew they were leaving and did not care (emphasis mine).

These youth have far less chance than the average Facebook-surfing, not-interested-in-working Gen Y member of finding employment or raising a stable family of their own someday. And family rejection not only of a marriage partner, but of a child is largely to blame.

From Gen Y to Gen Why, whats the matter with todays young people is that they need others to invest in their lives. The Gen Why Project offers a list of organizations that are working to end youth homelessness. A thirty-second internet search turns up faith-based groups across the country that minister to homeless youth (here, here, and here are some examples). Why wait? Lets get involved.