New Study Reveals Youth Unprepared to Make Challenging Ethical Choices


New Study Reveals Youth Unprepared to Make Challenging Ethical Choices

A new Harris Interactive study shows that while many of today's youth are unprepared to make moral and ethical decisions, Americans who participated in the Boy Scouts of America are more likely to make the most ethical, but not always the easiest, choices.

The Values of Americans - A Study of Ethics and Character, commissioned by the Boy Scouts of America, highlights the values held by society. The Values of Americans study is a follow-up to the 1995 Harris Interactive research The Values of Men and Boys in America and provides a comparison of current American values with those of 10 years ago. The survey results reveal a clear picture of the values of American adults and youth.

Several key findings regarding the current state of American youth include:

  • Half of youth cheated on homework or a test in the past 12 months, with 16 percent saying they have cheated five or more times.
  • The use of alcohol is prevalent among youth. One-quarter drank a full glass of alcohol or can of beer in the past 12 months, with 14 percent saying they have had an alcoholic beverage five times or more in the past year.
  • Nearly a quarter of youth took part in a group fight, and 10 percent say they hurt someone badly enough to need bandages or a doctor.
  • Youth are experimenting with drugs. Sixteen percent say they smoked marijuana in the past year, and 8 percent indicate they have done so five or more times.
  • The incidence of violent or delinquent behaviors increases as youth move into their teenage years.
  • Boys are more likely than girls to engage in violent or delinquent behaviors.

The study also shows that Scouting continues to make a positive impact in the lives of youth. The Values of Americans study reinforces the difference that Scouting can make, including:

  • Scouts show higher self-confidence, leadership skills, and a greater interest in helping others than youth who are not Scouts.
  • More than 80 percent of former Scouts report that Scouting has taught them to be a good team player, to always be honest, to take better care of the environment, and to respect the life and property of others.
  • Men who were Scouts five or more years are more likely than those who have never been Scouts to graduate from high school (91 percent versus 87 percent) and graduate from college (35 percent versus 19 percent).
  • Two-thirds of former Scouts report there have been real-life situations where having been a Scout helped them be a better leader (83 percent for former Scouts who were in the program five or more years).

"While many of the issues youth face have changed in the past 10 years, Scouting continues to provide youth with the skills they need to face an evolving society," said Roy Williams, Chief Scout Executive, BSA. "For 95 years Scouting has provided interesting and challenging programs that teach character and leadership to America's youth."

Serving nearly 4.1 million youth between 7 and 20 years of age in more than 300 councils throughout the United States and its territories, the Boy Scouts of America is the nation's foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training.


* Harris Interactive conducted The Values of Americans study from September 2004 through October 2004. The study is composed of two interrelated surveys; one of adult men and women and the other of American youth. The youth survey consisted of a paper questionnaire randomly distributed to 1,714 young Americans (868 boys and 846 girls) in grades four through 12 at public, private, and parochial schools across the United States. The adult survey was administered via telephone to a random sample of 1,524 adults ages 18 and older. Reports summarizing both studies are available on the BSA Web Site.