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The psychological and social fear of youth is called ephebiphobia.

Etymology and usage


The word ephebiphobia is formed from Greek 'ephebos' έφηβος = teenager, underage adolescent and 'fobos' φόβος = fear, phobia.

Coinage is attributed to a 1994 article by Kirk Astroth published in Phi Delta Kappan.[1] Today, common usage occurs internationally by sociologists, government agencies, and youth advocacy organizations that define ephebiphobia as an abnormal or irrational and persistent fear and/or loathing of teenagers or adolescence.[2][3]

Similar terms

The term paedophobia has gained popular acceptance in Europe to describe the aforementioned "fear of youth".[4][5] Pedophobia is the fear of infants and children. Using this term to categorize fear of youth may dismiss the unique social position that youth occupy. Hebephobia (from Greek 'hebe' (ήβη) = youth) has also been proposed; however, no verifiable evidence is available to support that claim. Similar terms include adultism, which is a predisposition towards adults that is biased against children and youth, and ageism, which describes discrimination against any person because of their age.


Media, marketers, politicians, youth workers and researchers have been implicated in perpetuating the fear of youth.[6] Their fear may be caused by access: in developed countries around the world young people can find entertainment, communication and information, and because that is so different from previous generations. Since young people in these countries are expected to stay out of the workforce, any role for them outside that of consumer is potentially threatening to adults.[7] Selling safety to parents and teachers has also been a driving force, as home security systems, cellphones, and computer surveillance usage is marketed to parents; and x-ray machines, metal detectors and closed-circuit television are increasingly sold to schools on the premise that young people are not to be trusted. These steps are in spite of the fact that experience consistently shows that monitoring youth does little to prevent violence or tragedy: the Columbine High School massacre occurred in a building with video surveillance and in-building police.[8]

The very creation of the terms youth, adolescence and teenager have all been attributed to the fear of youth.[9] As the western world became more industrialized, young people were increasingly driven from the workforce, including involuntary and voluntary positions, and into increasingly total institutions where they lost personal autonomy in favor of social control.[10][11] Government policies outside of schools have been implicated as well, as over the last forty years curfews, anti-loitering and anti-cruising laws, and other legislation apparently targeted at teenagers have taken hold across the country. Courts have increasingly ruled against youth rights, as well.[12][13] Before the 1940s "teenagers" were not listed in newspaper headlines, because as a group they did not exist. The impact of youth since World War II on western society has been immense, largely driven by marketing that proponents them as the "Other." In turn, youth are caused to behave in ways that appear different from adults. This has led to the phenomenon of youth, and in turn has created a perpetuated fear of them.[14]


The effects of ephebiphobia appear to cause damage throughout society. At least one major economist has proposed that the fear of youth can have grave effects on the economic health of nations.[15] A growing number of researchers report that the fear of youth affects the health of democracy, reporting that the consequential vilification of youth has in the past, and continues to presently undermine public,[16] social, political,[17] and cultural[18] participation among current and future generations.

Many social programs and social critics view ephebiphobia as a condemning force against youth throughout society, particularly when coupled with racism as it affects urban law enforcement,[19][20] schooling,[21] and media around the world[22][23] The effects of sexism are similarly reported to be amplified by ephebiphobia[24]

As it effects young people themselves, ephebiphobia has recognized as a barrier towards successful academic achievement,[25] a barrier to successful social intervention programs,[26] and as an indicator of the ineptitude of many adults to be successful parents.[27]

Academics acknowledge the force of ephebiphobia in the commercial[28] and governmental[29] sectors of society, where this fear of youth has been extensively exploited for financial gain. This is elaborated on by social critics who claim that popular media exacerbated society's fear of youth.[30][31][32] That notion is supported by newspaper reports of the fear of youth as a driver of social policy.[33][34] A number of observers have indicated the deliberate perpetuation of mass social ephebiphobia in order to elicit particular public and social responses.[35]

Examples of the fear of youth in popular culture

  • A Tribe Apart: A Journey into the Heart of American Adolescence by Patricia Hersch
  • Rosemary's Baby (movie)
  • Children of the Corn (movie)
  • The Parent Trap (movie)
  • Many movies about school
  • Many songs about school

See also


  1. Gough, P. (2000) "Detoxifying Schools." Phi Delta Kappan. March 1, 2000.
  2. Astroth, K. (1994) Beyond ephebiphobia: problem adults or problem youths? (fear of adolescents). Phi Delta Kappan. January 1, 1994.
  3. Clark, C. (2004) Hurt: Inside the World of Today's Teenagers (Youth, Family, and Culture). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
  4. Childhood is changing, but "paedophobia" makes things worse Institute for Public Policy Research. 22 October 2006.
  5. Waiton, S. (2006) The Roots of Paedophobia. Online.
  6. Fletcher, A. (2006) Washington Youth Voice Handbook. CommonAction. p 11. Retrieved 6/3/08.
  7. Sternheimer, K. (2006) Kids These Days: Facts and Fictions about Today's Youth. Rowman & Littlefield. p 140.
  8. Sternheimer, K. (2006) p 146.
  9. Savage, J. (2007) Teenage: The Creation of Youth 1875-1945. Chatto & Windus.
  10. Gatto, J.T.. (2001) The Underground History of American Education. Oxford Village Press. p 306.
  11. Breeding, J. (2002) True nature and great misunderstandings: On How We Care for Our Children. Virtualbookworm Publishing. p 10.
  12. Lauter, P. and Howe, P. (1971) The conspiracy of the young. Meridian. p 304.
  13. Epstein, R. (2007) The case against adolescence. Quill Driver Books. p 323.
  14. Palladino, G. (1996) Teenagers: An American perspective. BasicBooks. p 247.
  15. Gray, D. (1999) Negroponte: Europe's Net development held back by fear of youth, risk taking CNN. September 15, 1999.
  16. Jones, P., Shoemaker, S. Chelton, M. (2001) Do It Right! Best Practices for Serving Young Adults in School and Public Libraries New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers.
  17. Grossberg, L (2005) Caught In The Crossfire: Kids, Politics, And America's Future (Cultural Politics & the Promise of Democracy) New York: Paradigm Publishers
  18. Giroux, H. (2004) Take Back High Education: Race, Youth, and the Crisis of Democracy in the post-Civil Rights Era New York: Palgrave
  19. Males, M. (2002) "The New Demons: Ordinary teens". Los Angeles Times. April 21, 2002.
  20. Youth Media Council. (2005) Reclaiming Meaning, Echoing Justice. Oakland, CA: Author.
  21. Kozol, J. (2005) The Shame of a Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America. New York: Three Rivers Press.
  22. Collins, J. (2002). Gangs, Crime and Community Safety: Perceptions and Experiences in Multicultural Sydney Sydney: University of Technology.
  23. Scottish Executive (2006) Measurement of the Extent of Youth Crime in Scotland.
  24. Bromwich, R.J. (2002) Beyond Villains and Victims: Some Thoughts on Youth and Violence in Canada Toronto, ON: Women's Justice Network.
  25. Butts, P.M. (2000) Beyond Ephebiphobia: Overcoming the Fear of Middle & High School Students; A Program for Public Librarians. Macatawa, MI: Macatawa Public Library.
  26. Astroth, K. (1994) Beyond ephebiphobia: problem adults or problem youths? (fear of adolescents). Phi Delta Kappan. January 1, 1994.
  27. Coontz, S. (1999) The Way We Really Are: Coming to Terms With America's Changing Families. New York: Basic Books.
  28. Palladino, G. (1997) Teenagers: An American History. New York: Basic Books.
  29. Giroux, H. (2003) The Abandoned Generation: Democracy beyond the culture of fear. New York: Palgrave.
  30. "Studios caught in teen-age dilemmas Multiplex issues," Worcester Telegram & Gazette (MA), July 20, 2001.
  31. Shary, T. (2002). Generation Multiplex: The Image of Youth in Contemporary American Cinema. Austin: University of Texas Press. p.4.
  32. Giroux, H. (1999) The Mouse that Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
  33. Parrish, G. (1999). "Fear of Youth", Seattle Weekly. February 29, 1999.
  34. Street-Porter, J. (2005) "The Politicians Fear of Youth Culture", The Independent April 7, 2005.
  35. Males, M. (2001) "Lies, Damn Lies, and 'Youth Risk' Surveys" Youth Today. April 2001

External links

Related publications

  • (n.d.) Youth Liberation, Z magazine online.
  • Three Types of Youth Liberation - by Sven Bonnichsen
  • Pro-Youth - A firm text against ageism towards teenagers, presenting a case of ageism committed by a jury.
  • Everyone deserves to be given a chance - An essay against ageism towards teenagers, written by a Canadian adolescent.
  • "Are We Down On Our Kids?" - A Review of Caught in the Crossfire: Kids, Politics, and America’s Future by Lawrence Grossberg in Endeavours magazine that diagnoses cultural ephebiphobia in the U.S.
  • Ayotte, W. (1986) As Soon as You're Born They Make You Feel Small: Self Determination for Children.
  • Chicago Anarchist Youth Federation (n.d.) Schoolstoppers Textbook.
  • Cullen, S. (1991) Children in Society: a libertarian critique. London: Freedom Press.
  • Goodman, P. (1964) Compulsory Mis-education and The Community of Scholars. New York: Vintage Books.
  • Illich, I. (1970) Deschooling Society. New York: Harrow Books.
  • Holt, J. (1972) Freedom and Beyond. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co.
  • Miller, A. (1990) For Your Own Good: Hidden cruelty in child-rearing and the roots of violence. 3rd edition. New York: Noonday Press.

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