Skip to Content

How does culture influence the youth?

Culture has a profound influence on young people as they develop their identities and values. The cultural context provides norms, customs, media, language, traditions and institutions that shape all aspects of a child’s life. Family, community, national and global culture all interact to form a young person’s sense of self and way of understanding the world. This article will explore key ways that culture impacts youth in contemporary society.

What is culture?

Culture refers to the shared beliefs, norms, customs, behaviors, institutions, languages, artifacts and technologies that characterize a social group or society. It includes tangible elements like food, fashion, buildings, art and literature as well as intangible elements like ideas, values, customs and traditions. Culture is dynamic – it changes over time as new influences and experiences accumulate. It is also diverse, with subcultures and countercultures within any society.

How do young people experience culture?

Children begin absorbing cultural influences from birth through their families and communities. As they grow, their cultural environment expands to include media, school, peers, organizations and public culture. By adolescence, youth are actively engaging with cultural realms like music, fashion, sports, technology, art and activism to explore identity. They choose cultural affiliations that give them a sense of belonging. Teens also start questioning and challenging cultural assumptions as they develop critical thinking skills.

Shaping personal identity

A major cultural impact on young people is its role in shaping personal identity. Their cultural environment provides young people with values, beliefs, perspectives and examples that influence their sense of self. For instance:

  • Gender norms help shape a child’s understanding of what it means to be male or female in their cultural context.
  • Religious or spiritual customs teach moral values and shape worldviews.
  • National rituals like pledging allegiance to the flag convey ideas about citizenship.
  • The media provides images of idealized or stereotyped roles that teens sometimes emulate.
  • Subcultures let youth try on identities, like goth, preppy or hip hop.

As they mature, teens synthesize influences from their diverse cultural environments to develop a unique personal identity.

Influencing beliefs and values

The cultural context of childhood instills deep-seated assumptions, beliefs and values in young people by conveying what is right, important or taboo. For example:

  • Religious institutions impart moral tenets about good and evil.
  • Schools teach civic values like equality, democracy and respect for authority.
  • The media glamorizes wealth and consumerism.
  • Gender norms convey expectations for male and female roles.
  • Nationalism promotes loyalty and patriotism.

Teens accept, reject or modify these beliefs as they develop critical thinking skills and personal philosophies. But cultural influences often leave an imprint on their worldviews and opinions about social norms.

Providing socialization

Cultural contexts like family, school, media and community provide children with experiences that socialize them into societal roles and relationships. Socialization teaches them cultural norms like customs, values, expected behaviors and social skills. For example:

  • Families socialize children with gender roles.
  • Schools teach how to interact with peers according to cultural norms.
  • Community and religious centers socialize youth into cultural traditions.
  • The media provides images of idealized relationships and behaviors.
  • Rites of passage mark their transition into adulthood.

Through socialization, culture shapes young people into competent participants in their social worlds. Adolescents start questioning and negotiating certain norms as they mature.

Providing education

Formal schooling and informal learning within cultures educate young people and transmit knowledge to new generations. Education passes on:

  • Academic knowledge and skills for professional success
  • Cultural literacy including history, literature, arts and science
  • Social and cultural values and norms
  • Languages connecting youth to their cultural communities
  • Critical thinking abilities to understand and improve their societies

Teens engage actively with education to gain knowledge, expand opportunities and increase social status. But they may also challenge conventional educational assumptions as they explore alternatives.

Shaping aspirations

The values prioritized in a cultural context shape young people’s aspirations about what to strive for in life. For instance:

  • Individualistic cultures emphasize personal success and achievement.
  • Collectivist cultures prioritize community well-being.
  • Affluent cultures socialize youth to value material wealth.
  • Cultures that value tradition may discourage innovation.
  • Patriarchal cultures limit female aspirations.

However, modern media also exposes youth worldwide to alternative aspirations beyond their local cultures. Teens negotiate their own aspirations from the spectrum of cultural influences.

Influencing worldviews

A society’s cultural narratives shape the worldviews of young people by teaching them how the world works and what ideologies or philosophies are relevant. For example:

  • Religions provide cosmologies explaining humanity’s place in the universe.
  • Science education gives empirical understanding of the natural world.
  • Civics classes convey philosophies about government and economy.
  • History lessons teach interpretive narratives that justify national actions.
  • The media spreads ideas that normalize cultural assumptions.

Yet adolescents increasingly question, debate or abandon inherited worldviews as they explore alternatives beyond their cultures.

Providing rituals and traditions

Rituals and traditions are symbolic cultural practices that give young people a sense of belonging, continuity, meaning and identity. Rituals like holidays, ceremonies and rites of passage bond them to cultural communities. Shared traditions like foodways, music, dance, stories and celebrations express unique cultural heritages. But teens may outwardly reject or privately cherish these rituals as they navigate cultural identity.

Offering recreational culture

Young people explore their passions and interests through cultural realms like:

  • Sports teams, competitions and fandoms
  • Hobbies like gaming, fashion and the arts
  • Pop music, dance clubs and concerts
  • Summer camps focused on specific activities
  • DIY subcultures and niche interest groups

These recreational spheres let teens interact with peers who share their cultural passions. They provide fun social bonding opportunities and positive ways for youth to occupy free time.

Impacting health and well-being

Cultural environments influence young people’s physical and mental health in both positive and negative ways. For example:

  • Cultural values like beauty ideals can contribute to anxiety, depression or eating disorders.
  • Religious or spiritual customs can provide moral grounding and community support.
  • Traditional cuisines and active lifestyles may promote healthy development.
  • Media violence can desensitize teens to high-risk behaviors.
  • Belonging to positive subcultures like sports teams can build resilience against high-risk behaviors.

Health professionals and parents try promoting cultural assets that contribute to youth well-being while mitigating harmful cultural impacts.

Providing language

Learning their community’s language allows young people to participate competently in cultural life and connect with older generations. Language:

  • Expresses a cultural group’s unique history and identity.
  • Conveys values, concepts and social cues embedded in vocabulary and grammar.
  • Bonds youth to ancestral traditions conveyed through language.
  • Enables cultural media, literature, rituals and humor.
  • Grants economic opportunities within cultural communities.

Many teens today straddle multiple languages and cultural identities as societies become more diverse.

Impacting stereotypes and prejudices

Cultural bias and xenophobia sometimes convey prejudiced attitudes toward outsider groups that young people may internalize, such as:

  • Racial or ethnic stereotypes
  • Prejudice toward immigrants or cultural minorities
  • Intolerance for religions different from the mainstream
  • Homophobia and fixed ideas about gender roles
  • Disrespect toward people with disabilities

Teachers and parents try to counter such cultural conditioning by promoting tolerance, empathy and mutual understanding. But teens also influence each other’s attitudes through peer culture.

Enabling creativity and innovation

Culture provides creative mediums, knowledge and institutions enabling young people to express innovation and individuality:

  • Musical instruments, dance, visual arts, writing and new technologies let youth experiment with self-expression.
  • Heritage and folklore inspire imaginative subcultures, stories, designs and performances.
  • Libraries, schools, apprenticeships and youth programs provide creative education and mentors.
  • Cultural values about originality, imagination and nonconformity encourage innovative thinking.

Creative cultural engagement allows teens to contribute their unique skills, perspectives and ideas to society.

Promoting conformity or countercultures

Culture presses adolescents to conform to social norms, but also gives them tools for rebellion and resistance.

  • Mainstream teen culture demands conformity to fads, fashion and peer pressure.
  • Adults pressure youth to conform to moral norms and expectations.
  • Countercultures, subcultures, music genres and street art provide outlets for rebellion.
  • Cliques, gangs and online forums let teens bond over resistance.
  • Youth activism counters dominant cultural narratives.

Teens constantly negotiate a balance between conforming and resisting mainstream culture’s constraints.


In summary, the diverse cultural context of adolescence profoundly influences young people by providing role models and resources while shaping identities, aspirations, beliefs, behaviors and worldviews. As teens mature, they increasingly analyze, negotiate and reshape cultural pressures. Contemporary youth often navigate complex multicultural identities as societies become more diverse and interconnected globally. Ultimately culture impacts youth both by limiting and liberating potentials, but adolescents increasingly influence the future trajectory of their cultures as well.