The Thoughts of Youth

An International Perspective on Adolescents' Ideal Persons

Judith L. Gibbons, Saint Louis University
Deborah A. Stiles, Webster University

Published 2006

Most knowledge about adolescent development is based on adolescents living in the United States or Europe. "The Thoughts of Youth" reports a study in which over 6000 adolescents from 20 regions of the world, including the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia, described an ideal woman or ideal man. Adolescents' images of the ideal person reflect their personal values about gender roles, their expectations and plans for the future, and their cultural values. "The Thoughts of Youth" presents the teenagers’ perspectives - their descriptions, drawings, and interpretations of their peers’ responses. Issues of importance to adolescent development are addressed, including morality and altruism, physical appearance and attractiveness, self and identity, intelligence and schooling, work, fun and leisure, family relationships, and romance. In contrast to the stereotype that adolescents are preoccupied with appearance and popularity, adolescents in this study endorsed kindness, honesty, helpfulness, and a positive attitude toward children. This book documents both the universal attitudes of adolescents and the ways that teenagers’ views differ by gender, culture, and economic condition.

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