Leonardo preferred to saving the planet

27th November 1998 at 00:00
Call it a teenage identity crisis, but for today's young people the battle between social conscience and social life is over quickly.

At 14 years old they worry about homelessness, racism, sexism and animal rights. But by 16 even earning money is only their number two priority because their main aim is I having fun.

As they get older, personal ambitions of a career in show-biz, sport - even teaching - become less important, as does that global vision of converting everyone to vegetarianism, eradicating racism and bigotry, and finding a treatment for killer diseases.

But they are not unambitious; today's teenagers dream of snogging Leonardo DiCaprio, playing for England in the World Cup and living for ever as an 18-year-old.

Their thoughts are revealed in a survey by the Church of England of 362 teenagers aged 14-19. The findings are intended to offer a snapshot of the way young people's thinking develops throughout their teenage years.

The findings show that across all ages relationships with friends and family are paramount - although relations with parents become sour as the teenagers get older. In fact, the majority of 18 and 19-year-olds described their relationship with parents as poor - "non-existent", "hostile", "lacking" or "crap".

Paradoxically, at 14 the respondents were twice as likely to believe that a future career beckoned for them than were their 16 or 17-year-old counterparts who are closer to the age of job-hunting.

And, surveying their life so far, almost a third of 16-year-olds said they felt stressed, uncertain and confused. However, the bulk across all ages accepted change, though some wondered what the future held for them or said they were going through "that really crap stage before something really good happens".

Spiders, burning, drowning, war and fear of small places headed the list of phobias. More than half the 16-year-olds feared failure, and around a quarter of 14 and 16-year-olds and a third of 15-year-olds were worried about death or illness.

However, one respondent feared nothing. "I am a man," he replied.

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