Teen Role Models: Who They Are, Why They Matter
Jim LiebeltJim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University. Jim has over 25 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, and has been on the HomeWord staff since 1998. He has served over the years as a pastor, author, youth ministry trainer, adjunct college instructor and speaker. Jim’s culture blog and parenting articles appear on HomeWord.com. Jim is a contributing author of culture and parenting articles to Crosswalk.com. Jim and his wife Jenny live in Olympia, WA.
- 2011 Feb 01
A study conducted by Barna Group among a national sample of teenagers gives new insight into whom teens select as their role models and why those individuals captured their attention.
The nationwide sample of teenagers asked 13- to 17-year-olds to identify the person whom they admire most today as a role model, other than their parents. A follow-up question probed the reasons they define that person as a role model.
So who do teenagers name as their role models?
The most commonly mentioned role model is a relative—37% of teens named a relation other than their parent as the person they admire most. This is typically a grandparent, but also includes sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, and uncles. After "family," teens mention teachers and coaches (11%), friends (9%), and pastors or other religious leaders they know personally (6%).
Beyond the realm of the people they know personally, entertainers (including musicians and actors) were named by 6% of teens, followed by sports heroes (5%), political leaders (4%), faith leaders (4%), business leaders (1%), authors (1%), science and medical professionals (1%), other artists (1%), and members of the military (1%).
The high-profile leaders most commonly named were President Obama (3%) and Jesus Christ (3%).
Why do teens choose their role models?
The most common rationale (26%) was the personality traits of that person. Another factor in teens' thinking was finding someone to emulate (22%) or that the teen would like to "follow in the footsteps" of their chosen role model. Encouragement is another reason for teens' selections (11%), the role model accomplished his or her goals (13%), overcame adversity (9%), works hard (7%), is intelligent (7%), performs humanitarian effort and activism (6%), maintains strong faith (6%), has great talent (5%), and exudes self-confidence (1%). Although not listed often, some teens identified wealth (3%), self-sufficiency (1%), and fame (1%) as the reasons for preferring a specific leader or role model.
Source: Barna Group