- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Nearly 75 percent of the nation’s teenagers get along just fine with their parents, and a majority lists a family member as a top role model, according to a survey released yesterday.

Peter D. Hart, who conducted the annual survey for the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, a nonprofit education group, said the numbers prove that in these uncertain times of war and threats of terrorism, teens increasingly are “looking to the family as a touchstone.”

Seventy-four percent of the students said they get along very well or extremely well with their parents or guardians, although classic conflicts remain — such as arguing over grades, spending money or cleaning rooms. Forty-four percent listed a family member as a major role model, and of that group, 37 percent listed their mothers.

But, Mr. Hart said, what was most surprising was students’ response when asked what they would do with more time: Fifty percent said they would spend it with family. Surprisingly, a slightly higher 52 percent of juniors and seniors — “the ones who have wheels” — said they would choose to spend that time with their families.

“My family and I have always been close,” said Charles Marshall, a 16-year-old junior from Delaware, who sat with a panel of teens yesterday as the survey was presented to reporters.

Charles said his family goes to dinner and baseball games together, and that he spends a lot of time with his 2-year-old brother.

“I’m very happy that the majority of youth feels the same way I do,” he said.

The September 11 attacks contributed greatly to young people “uniting” more with their families, said Saneta Tutuh, 16, who lives in Alexandria and will be a senior this fall at T.C. Williams High School.

“It’s one of the key reasons why” most students surveyed were so positive about their families, she said.

“We want to hold closer to our families because we don’t know if they’re going to be there,” said Nathan Prather, 15, from Georgia.

After the terrorist attacks, Nathan said, many teenagers realized their loved ones “could be gone in a split second.”

Despite increased awareness of terrorism, however, the youths remain positive and upbeat, with 75 percent saying they are hopeful and optimistic about the country’s future.

Most of those surveyed said they do volunteer work and have confidence in the nation’s major institutions, such as the military, federal government and Congress.

“I think it’s a nice compliment to this generation,” Mr. Hart said. “Yes, they do care and yes, they are involved.”

The poll, titled “The State of Our Nation’s Youth,” surveyed 1,055 students in grades nine through 12 and was conducted from April 29 to May 5. The figures have a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

Teens today also appear to be doing better in school, with 47 percent of those surveyed saying they spend six or more hours a week on homework, compared with 37 percent last year. And 32 percent said they get mostly A’s on their report cards, compared with 22 percent last year.

Teens are increasingly technologically aware as well — 97 percent have access to a computer at home.

Anya Edun, an 18-year-old Florida resident who will start college this fall, said she has news and information e-mailed to her throughout the day.

Notably, however, the majority of those surveyed said they are skeptical of the media, with 49 percent saying they have a negative effect on teenagers’ morals and values.

Nearly all those surveyed are aiming for a college education, and define success as having close family relationships, an intimate group of friends and an active spiritual life, rather than fame, fortune or popularity.

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