New Internationalist

The Facts

Issue 138

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ADOLESCENCE [image, unknown] Entering the adult world

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The FACTS

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Stepping out of childhood

age 10

Teenage peak

1985 will see more teenagers in the world than ever hefore The worldwide 'baby bulge' of the 1970s has hecome the ‘teenage bulge' of the 1980s.

The world will have one billion adolescents (10-19 years) in 1985.

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And there will he more teenagers then (as a proportion of society) than there will ever be again.

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Where the billion live

In 1985:

122m
  Africa
91m
  Latin America
38m
  North America
74m
  Europe
4.5m
  Oceania
269m
  East Asia (including China)
360m
  Rest of Asia (including Middle East)

Source: Demographic Indicators of Countries, UN (1980 figures).


age 11-12

More schools

Secondary school enrolment in the developing countries has risen faster than the school age population. So a larger proportion of adolescents is now in school - and it looks like the proportion will he even higger hy the year 2000.

 
1960
1980
2000

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Africa
5%
21%
43%
Asia
20%
30%
50%
Latin America
14%
45%
67%
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Percentage of age group

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Rising literacy

Literacy rates for adolescent girls are improving, but they remain lower than for boys.

   
1960
1980
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Africa Boys
27%
52%
  Girls
11%
27%
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Asia Boys
55%
70%
  Girls
35%
47%
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Latin America Boys
72%
82%
  Girls
63%
77%
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Percentage of literate over-15s

Source: Summary Statistical Re view of Education, UNESCO, 1981


age 13-14

Sexual awakening

Sexual awakening is one of the headier delights of adolescence. But sex without contraception is unsafe for teenage girls because motherhood limits a girl's life-chances. Most teenagers who become mothers drop out of school. And early pregnancy shard on young bodies. Maternal mortality is higher during adolescence than after 20 - especially in the poor world where girls are undernourished.

. Of more than a million US teenage pregnancies a year, at least two-thirds are unplanned and some 430,000 end in abortion.

. In clinics for sexually transmitted diseases in the UK, 40-50% of the patients are under 20.

. Infant mortality is 2.4 times higher for babies born to mothers under 15 than to mothers in their early twenties.

. In Bangladesh, pregnancy and childbirth difficulties are the biggest cause of death among girls 15-19.


age 15-19

Teenage mothers

More babies are being born to teenage mothers than ever hefore.

. In Indonesia, 41% of all women have their first baby before they are 17.

. In the Caribhean, 58% of first babies are born to mothers under 19. A quarter of first babies have mothers under 17.

. In most African and Latin American countries more than one in ten girls (15-19 years) has a baby. In Bangladesh, one in five teenage girls has a baby.

Source: Adolescent Fertility', the Bellagin papers, edited by Jennifer McKay. IPPF; Center for Population and Eamily Health. Colombia University.

[image, unknown] Selling taste

The world bought 900 million LPs in 1982, not to mention 680 million singles/EPs and 570 million music tapes. That’s a staggering $11.2 billion’s worth - and since almostall of them are produced in the West, it’s not surprising that ‘youth culture’ all over the world has a heavily Anglo-American flavour.

Who buys them:

Third World 12%
Japan 11.4%
UK 6.3%
Canada 3.3%
Australia 1.8%
NZ 0.3%
USSR 5.5%
US 32%

Who sells them:
Virtually all are produced by just 5 multinational companies: CBS. RCA. WEA, EMI and Polygram.

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Permission to marry

Boy meets girl - but they can’t marry until society gives them permission: the authority of the parent is backed by the authority of law.

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Minimum legal age

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with
parental consent
without parental consent

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M
F
M
F
Argentina
16
14
21
21
China
-
-
22
20
Cuba
16
14
18
18
France
18
15
18
18
Hong Kong
16
16
21
21
Indonesia
19
16
21
21
Iran
20
18
-
-
Norway
18
18
20
20
Papua New Guinea
18
16
21
21
Portugal
16
14
21
21
Senegal
20
1 6
20
1 6
Singapore
18
18
21
21
Somalia
any
16
any
18
Sweden
18
18
18
18
Thailand
17
17
20
20
USSR
18
18
18
18

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Fewer girl brides

But society at large can also protect the young from the pressure of their elders.

. Child marriage without the consent of one or both partners is prohibited by a United Nations Convention adopted in 1962, ratified by at least 38 states. During the past generation over 50 countries have passed laws changing the age of marriage which reduce parental power:

. Parental consent is irrelevant in most Eastern European countries: the legal minimum is 18 years regardless of consent. And these countries have also introduced sexual equality: both boys and girls need to be 18 to marry.

. A young girl can no longer be married off to a much older man in the Yemen People’s Democratic Republic. Marriages where the spouses have an age differential of more than 20 years are prohibited, until the woman is over 35.

. In almost all European countries adolescents can marry below the legal minimum without parental permission - if they can persuade the courts (or government authorities) of their special circumstances.

Many countries have raised the minimum age for marriage in order to lower the population rate. In India, a Bill raising the minimum age from 15 to 18 for girls and from 18 to 21 for boys, was introduced in 1976.

But social reforms can be more effective than legal reforms in raising the actual age at which people marry. In Sri Lanka the minimum age was still legally 12 for girls and 16 for boys even in the 1970s - but the average actual age at marriage has been rising as a result of more schools and jobs for women.

Source: International Planned Parenthood Federation

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The right to vote

Most societies consider adolescents old enough to vote afterthey are 18. But in some societies you also need to be male, or literate, or under 60. or have even more specialised qualifications

Bolivia
  18. if married; 21 if single.
Brazil
  18; no vote for illiterates.
Chile
  No-one votes.
China
  18
Cuba
  16
Dominican Republic
  18 - or any age if married. Voting is compulsory except for the police and armed forces - who have no vote.
Ethiopia
  21
Guinea Bissau
  15
Hong Kong
  Limited to 2-300,000 professional or skilled persons.
India
  21
Indonesia
  17 - any age if married.
Japan
  20
Kenya
  21
N.’Korea
  17
S. Korea
  20
Kuwait
  Native-born or naturalised men 21 No women.
Lebanon
  21 - compulsory for men. Women with elementary education can vote.
Nepal
  21
Paraguay
  18-60 compulsory.
USSR
  18
Switzerland
  20
Vatican City
  Only cardinals under 80.

Source: World Fact Book


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