One of the best films of the year so far has been the Way Way Back. While the main reason to love it are the terrific performances, another attraction is the twist it provides on the coming of age story. As you would expect the teenage characters rebel against their parents. What is unusual is the assumption that the clash of generations is down to the younger generation’s irresponsibility. What it shows instead are parents whose hedonism wreaks a high emotional price on their children. The lead character, Duncan’s, rebellion is not drink and take drugs but to get a job that allows him to escape from the adults in his life.
This is arguably a cultural reflection of a real social phenomenon. The BBC Home Affairs correspondent Mark Easton:
Teenage rebels are not what they were. Adolescents are increasingly turning their noses up at drugs, booze and fags, with consumption by young people the lowest at almost any time since we started measuring these things.
Drugs: Last week, the Home Office published analysis which suggests the proportion of 16- to 24-year-olds that have ever taken illicit drugs has fallen from 54% in 1998 to 38% now. Among 11- to 15-year-olds the figure has fallen from 29% to 17% in a decade.
Tobacco: Last month, NHS analysis suggested the proportion of English 16- to 19-year-olds who have never smoked has risen from about two-thirds in 1998 to three-quarters now. And the data is just as striking among their younger brothers and sisters. In 1982 most 11- to 15-year-olds (53%) had had a sneaky cigarette at one time or another. Today, just a quarter has ever spluttered over a fag behind the bike sheds.
Alcohol: It is a similar story with booze. In 1998, 71% of 16- to 24-year-olds questioned said they’d had a drink that week. Today it is 48% – far lower than their parents (about 70%). Among 11- to 15-year-olds there are similar big falls. A decade ago, 26% reported they’d had alcohol in the previous week. Now the data suggests the figure is 13%.