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Research on Teenagers' Role Models

A 2011 poll asked teenagers to identify the person they admire the most as a role model, other than their parents. (The study intentionally excluded parents as role models because previous studies have shown that teens have high regard for their parents—or else they feel pressured to list their parents as role models.) Here's the list of the top role models for teenagers:

  • 37 percent—a relative (other than parents)
  • 11 percent—a teacher or a coach
  • 9 percent—a friend
  • 6 percent—a religious leader they know personally
  • 6 percent—an actor or a musician
  • 5 percent—an athlete
  • 4 percent—a political figure
  • 4 percent—a faith leader
  • 1 percent—business leaders, authors, scientists or doctors, artists, or military members

The high-profile people our teens want to emulate include President Obama (3 percent), Jesus (3 percent), and an wide range of other celebrities, including Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Oprah Winfrey, LeBron James, Peyton Manning, Bill Gates, Martin Luther King Jr., the Pope, and Yumi Tamura (a Japanese Manga artist).

The results of this survey point to two significant conclusions:

  • More than two out of three teenagers are emulating the people they know best: relatives, teachers, pastors, friends, and coaches.
  • Teenagers—even churched teenagers—are choosing to follow a wide range of mentors and heroes based on their involvement in the media or sports, not based on their Christian faith or character.

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