Teen Ethics Poll: 44% Feel Intense Pressure To Succeed, No Matter the Cost

Some 44% of teens say they feel either a lot or overwhelming pressure to succeed in school, no matter the cost, and more girls than boys feel this heavy burden to succeed, according to the fourth annual “Teen Ethics Poll” released by JA Worldwide™ (Junior Achievement) and Deloitte & Touche USA LLP (Deloitte).

The survey also found a notable gender gap among those who reported “a lot” or “overwhelming” pressure to succeed in school at any cost: 50% of the girls vs. 38% of the boys – felt this burden to do well in school.

The survey, designed to take the ethical pulse of teens aged 13 to 18, found that young people are feeling strong pressure to succeed in school, no matter the cost. 

  • Teens also hold a dim view on the ethics of their peers - 44% say high school students behave unethically, placing them, in their eyes, below doctors, teachers, professional athletes and business leaders.
  • Many teens admitted they had personally engaged in unethical behavior in the last year by lying (69%), downloading a song without paying (34%), and cheating on tests (22%).
  • 81% students who feel significant pressure to succeed, no matter the cost, think it’s going to remain the same or get worse when they join the workforce. 
  • 29% of all teens believe they are currently only somewhat or not at all prepared to make ethical decisions. 

Experts agree that these results raise a red flag. “The notion that large numbers of students feel somewhat unprepared to make ethical decisions, coupled with the fact that they feel pressure to succeed at all costs, is a troubling combination,” said David Miller Ph.D., Executive Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture and Assistant Professor (Adjunct) of Business Ethics. “We are reminded that community and corporate leaders can play a pivotal role in helping prepare students to recognize and resist the inevitable ethical dilemmas they will face later in life.”

The 2006 “Teen Ethics Poll” was commissioned by Junior Achievement and Deloitte and conducted by Harris Interactive during September 2006; 787 students between the ages of 13 and 18 participated. 

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