They abuse drugs less and use contraceptives more. Their faith in government leaders is dwindling and their appreciation of family life is growing. The nation’s top high school students are in many ways quite different from their predecessors 25 years ago - they seem more cynical, more mature and, for better and worse, more adult.
Those are the central conclusions of a survey, to be released today, that questioned several thousand high-achieving high school students around the country about their personal conduct and their outlook on American society, then compared that data to similar surveys conducted in the 1970s and 1980s.
“What you see is that teenagers have to grow up awfully fast today,” said Paul Krouse, the publisher of Who’s Who Among American High School Students, the publication that conducted the survey. “Some of the same old problems they faced 25 years ago have more serious repercussions now, and they have new worries too.”
More than 3,100 randomly selected top high school juniors and seniors were questioned as part of the survey. It depicts a generation that is showing a few more signs of personal responsibility than their counterparts did in 1970, yet seems ever more distraught with the society in which they are coming of age.
The survey found that, among top students, drug use and smoking has declined considerably over the past two decades. In a similar survey in 1972, 27 percent of students said they had tried marijuana. This time, 10 percent said they did. Those who said they used the drug regularly dropped from 8 percent to 2 percent. Over that same period, students who said they smoked cigarettes fell from 11 percent to 5 percent.
The percentages of students using alcohol and having sex have remained relatively the same, the survey reported. But far more of them said they were taking precautions with their partner.