Can this be a case where 'the spirit is willing, but the flesh is week'? Contrary to the popular notion, surveys have found that American teenagers are actually not all that selfish nor are they lacking in moral values; because a majority feel obligated to help their parents now and then.
Researchers at the University of Rochester, the University of Missouri-Columbia, and the University of Illinois at Chicago, have revealed that they studied how teenagers and their parents felt about young people's obligations to help each other in everyday situations when requests for help clash with personal desires.
Describing their study in the journal Child Development, they revealed that they looked at almost 120 7th and 10th graders from lower-middle- to middle-class families and their parents.
The researchers asked them to react to stories in which either parents or teens asked for help, then judge what the protagonist should do, and whether it was okay to say no due to personal desires.
They observed that teens did not always act out of personal desire or selfishness, but felt relatively obligated to help their parents, even when the requests were small.
The team also found that parents thought it's more acceptable for teens to say no when personal desires conflicted than do the teens themselves.
Adolescents and parents appear to balance and coordinate family members' requests for help with conflicting personal desires, and to consider both the family role of the person asking for help and how much help is needed.
The researchers revealed that more parents of 10th graders said that it was selfish to ignore requests for help, and satisfy personal desires in situations when the needs were big than did parents of 7th graders.
More middle adolescents said that it was less selfish to meet personal desires in those situations than did young adolescents.
Based on their observations, the researchers came to the conclusion that parents' and teens' ratings of selfishness widen with age, perhaps mirroring the increasing conflicts between teens and parents that occur in middle adolescence.