Juvenile Delinquency in the 1950s Video

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  • 0:05 Children of Plenty
  • 0:45 Generational Friction
  • 1:40 Fast Cars and Loud Music
  • 3:02 Maintaining Perspective
  • 3:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

While parents and their teenage children have always had disagreements and arguments, the 1950s were one of the first times when teenagers had the money to actually gain their own levels of independence.

Children of Plenty

Think your teenage years were filled with angst? Try coming of age in the 1950s. Sure, there were some really great aspects. Average incomes were rising faster than they had ever risen before, and your parents now had enough excess money to not only keep you in school through high school graduation, but even to help subsidize a college education. On the surface, it was a pretty sweet, or nifty, deal. However, under the surface it was a very different story. Sure, your parents wanted you to live a little, but their idea of having fun was not having to work in a factory at age 16. Your idea of fun was going to a drive in theatre with your crush.

Generational Friction

It wasn't just differences in age that had caused these frictions. For many teenagers in the 1950s, their fathers and older brothers had fought in World War II. However, the teenagers of the period had very little recollection of the conflict - after all, they were children through most of it. These parents and older siblings wanted the best for their younger relations and felt that the younger generation was squandering the unimaginable opportunities of college and economic stability that had simply not been available before. It wasn't just typical generational friction that was causing trouble between teenagers and older adults. America had been a segregated country for decades, and there was a pretty firm line dividing white culture and black culture. Some teenagers of the 1950s sought to erode this line. However, it wasn't just some deliberate action that was causing the erosion - instead, it was an adoption of what was perceived to be 'black culture' among many young whites.

Fast Cars and Loud Music

No better example of this exists than the music that these teenagers were choosing to play. Their parents may have listened to big bands and jazz, but these teenagers were increasingly drawn to the hip-swaying rhythms of a new style: rock and roll. Now let's back up for a second - after all, jazz was originally an African American genre. Isn't there some hypocrisy here? Absolutely. In the minds of the older adults, however, rock and roll brought out more base instincts. Jazz might get you tapping your foot, but rock and roll would get you swaying your hips. In fact, the most famous musician of the age, Elvis Presley, earned much of his fame for his ability to combine dance moves with his singing abilities.

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