Kids these days, right?
Martin Monto is skeptical.
Monto, a sociology professor at the University of Portland, researches the high school and college student age group as well as recent college graduates — a generation sometimes referred to as the iGeneration or post-Millennials. Monto’s research challenges stereotypes about this generation.
What first interested Monto in the topic was a student who approached him interested in studying stereotypes about “hookup culture.”
“I was stunned to find out there’s tremendous resources in terms of data that can really help answer the question as to whether things really are different today,” Monto said.
Monto and Anna Carey, a University of Portland graduate, published a study on hookup culture in 2014. Using General Social Survey data, their research compared two groups of 18– to 25-year-olds with at least one year of college — 2004–12 and 1988–96.
The results found that 18– to 25-year-olds from 2004–12 were more likely to report sex with a casual date or friend, yet found no evidence of substantial changes indicating a new or pervasive pattern, compared with youth of the same age from 1988–96.
Current youth did not report more total sexual partners, more partners during the past year or more frequent sex than the older generation.
However, Monto did note some differences in hookup culture today including less stigma associated with casual sex and the increased use of the term “hookup” itself.
The term came about in the early 2000s and Monto noted the “it” can refer to things other than sexual intercourse.
“There’s a tendency for older generations to look at younger generations and see them as alarming or problematic,” Monto said. “The concern of young people’s sexuality is nothing new.”
Monto’s research also looks into the mental health of the younger generation which has been dubbed by some the fragile generation.
Trend data for high school students shows that there might be a slight uptick in levels of mental distress from 2013–17 but the levels aren’t alarming, according to Monto.
However, there is a noticeable difference in students seeking help for their mental health. Between 2015 and 2016, a 50 percent increase occurred in unique college students seeking mental health treatment, according to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health’s 2016 annual report.
But it may not be entirely a bad thing that more students are seeking help; it may be due in part to less stigma and more acceptance in seeking treatment, according to Monto.
“I think that’s partially a good news story,” he said.