Adultism / Being An Ally

Adults can play an important role in preventing dating violence. Adults are able to model healthy and equitable relationships for the young people in their lives, and support young people to stand up for what is right.

To be good allies to young people, it is important for adults to understand age discrimination and adultism.


Adultism: YouthBuild USA describes adultism: “We use the word adultism to mean all those behaviors and attitudes which flow from the assumption that adults are better than young people and entitled to act upon young people in a myriad of ways without their agreement.”

– John Bell, Co-founder of YouthBuild, USA

Adultism also refers to the systematic mistreatment of young people and the systematic advantages given to adults including laws, policies, social norms and customs that assume that young people are less capable and valued in society.

These beliefs have been taught to all of us and it is possible to recognize and change them.  Below are some steps that adults can take to be better allies to young people.

Being an ally to young people:

  1. Recognize young people as growing, changing people with the ability to learn, make change in their communities, and have original thoughts and ideas.
  2. Learn about condescending or patronizing behaviors and work to stop doing them.
  3. Involve young people in meaningful decision making about issues that impact their lives and communities.
  4. Listen.
  5. Value the contributions of all people, and recognize that different ages have different, but meaningful contributions.
  6. Ask open ended questions. Listen to the answers without judging or correcting.
  7. Learn about issues impacting the lives of young people today. Consider the similarities and differences to the issues that impacted you when you were younger.
  8. Offer support without taking over. You may have access to information, skills, or resources that a young person doesn’t have. That doesn’t mean that you need to do everything for young people, but you can learn to share what you do have.