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Teenage Life in the 1950's

By Erika Cox

The word Teenager was created in the 1950's due to the tremendous population of those in this age category and because teenagers started gaining more independence and freedoms. Teenagers were able to buy more things like food, clothes and music because of an increase in spending money.

Teenagers were also becoming more independent in the type of music they preferred to listen to, no more listening to what their parents liked, teens flocked to the new music of the decade, which was rock and roll.

Growing up as a teenager prior to World War II, teenagers were expected to take life seriously. Males were expected to join the military or go out and get a job in order to help bring in money for their family or to take care of their future family.

Females were taught how to take care of the household and prepare themselves to be a dutiful wife and take care of children. Marriage and preparing for a family, more than education or a career, was seen as a definite in the lives of teenagers. Also, teens had very little economic freedom, independence, and input into decision making prior to WWII.

However, in the 1950's, expectations changed for the teenager. The economy started booming and families experienced a great deal of economic power, freedom and independence, including teenagers.

New medians were created like television and AM radio that attracted teenagers. Also they were able to attend high school dances, create clothing trends, dance fads, and hairstyles to name a few.

Things were starting to change. In the 1950's, teenagers where more inclined and encouraged to attend college, find a skill, and seek a successful career. Their parents had more than likely gone through the depression and a number of wars, and now wanted something more for their children.

This resulted in teenagers receiving spending money and having more time to socialize with other teenagers. Of course, this newly found independence would often result in conflict between the parents and the child.

The media played on these emotions and often portrayed teenagers as juvenile delinquents. Peers easily influence teenagers, often at that stage in life what peers think and do becomes more important than what parents think and say.

Perhaps, some would say looking at society in general that the first indication or act of teenage rebellion began in the 1950's.

Before the 1950's, teenagers listened to the music of their parents, but when rock and roll came on the scene teens swarmed to it. Even though teens were able to purchase rock and roll records because they were receiving extra spending money, their parents were opposed to rock and roll music, they despised it, and thought of it as corrupting their children.

This sometimes caused friction, it seemed as if teenagers were becoming more rebellious, defensive, and at times, disrespectful, and that listening to rock and roll was the root cause of all this rebellion.

However, this belief was often exaggerated because parents didn't understand the newfound independence and freedom that they never experienced. Yet, rock and roll was something new and parents thought it was shocking and terrible. They felt if their children were listening to this dreadful music that the end must be right around the corner.

Although, this wasn't the case in every household it was in a large number of them. Because parents had never experienced this they thought their children were doomed never realizing it was just a phase and it would be over with once the teen reached adulthood.

Later on this clash became known as the generation gap. Nevertheless, with the help of adults, radio, rock shows, concerts, and TV shows like American Bandstand opened doors for teens in the 1950's to experience things teenagers of the past never experienced. Despite all of the uproar, teenagers in the 1950's played a huge part in the rise of rock and roll music.


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