YA Books Aren't Teaching Kids How to Swear, But Let's Go Ahead and Blame Them Anyhow

Illustration for article titled YA Books Aren't Teaching Kids How to Swear, But Let's Go Ahead and Blame Them Anyhow

You'd think, given how much concern we're constantly professing about kids these days, that we'd be happy anytime they picked up a goddamn book rather than playing a video game in which they're murdering people or slutting it up by sexting with their friends. Well, not so! Professor Sarah Coyne, of Brigham Young University (naturally) has done some groundbreaking research and discovered that teen literature is loaded with dangerous swear words. What's worse is that the characters with dirty mouths are portrayed as having more money, better looks, and higher social status. Yes: This world is going to hell in a motherfucking handbasket.


Coyne analyzed 40 books from an adolescent bestsellers list and found that 88 percent had at least one "instance of profanity." One scandalous tome had nearly 500, but the average book had 38. That's probably fewer instances of profanity than the average teen hears during their school lunch hour, but we should still definitely lose our shit. (Dammit, sorry, for some reason I can't stop swearing. I think it's because I read too many books when I was a wee little bitch.) So why does it matter that we're filling the minds of teens with profanity and teaching them that swearing will make them a success in life? Coyne says,

From a social learning standpoint, this is really important because adolescents are more likely to imitate media characters portrayed in positive, desirable ways.

Sure, but they're also very likely to imitate their friends, many of whom probably did not learn to swear from YA novels. Yes, in theory, it would be nice if we could raise a generation of well-spoken, non-profane people, but chances are that most teens have been fluent in Cursese since they started kindergarten—when the big kids at the back of the bus start corrupting the young impressionable minds in the front of the bus. So, for now, fuck it. Let's just be happy that kids are reading at all and not get our panties all twisted up about the fact that the books they're choosing to consume accurately reflect how their friends actually talk.

Foul-mouthed characters in teen books have it all, study finds [EurekAlert]

Image via Piotr Marcinski/Shutterstock.


Kat Callahan

I was so hoping she didn't have a PhD. Alas, she does. However, as a JHS English teacher, I can tell her the reason authors include profanity is because it is accurate to the reality of the dialogue adolescents use every day. These authors want to make money, so they need to give young adults characters and situations they recognise.

Children can smell bullshit a mile away. They won't read Dr. Coyne's unrealistically swear word devoid literature. She can go ahead and sink a few hundred thousand dollars into start up printing costs if she'd like to test that theory.