Least-Adult

After reading about the least-adult role in Representing Youth I began reflecting on my own recent non-research experience of working with youth, where I did unconsciously develop that role. At my current job, we have several high school aged volunteers who work with older adult volunteers. At 26 I am roughly 10 years older than the teens, but anywhere from 20 to 60 years younger than the other adults involved (and I also look younger than I am). Thinking back on my interactions with the teens, I notice that they do treat me differently than the other adults. It’s obvious from our interactions that they view me as an adult, but not the same type of adult. They’ll discuss their lives with me or in front of me, but won’t bring up the same topics with the other adults. They also question me about myself, what it’s like to be married, to have a job, to go to college, etc. They tend to avoid that type of questioning with the others. It’s almost as if they view me as a bridge between their world and the “real” adult world. They also seem more comfortable with my authority within the program. I’m often the one they will come to with questions regarding their participation or paperwork, even if they know I’m not the one who would usually be handling that particular issue.

Before now I had not considered my role or been aware of the existence of the least-adult role. I’m unsure of whether it was a result of my actions, their views, or a combination of both that placed me in that role, though I suspect the third option is the most likely. I want to investigate this further, though, because I think being able to do it consciously would be useful for future research. Based on my reading in Representing Youthit seems like an approach that could be beneficial in gaining the trust of the participants as well as more accurate and rich data.

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