Cultural Diffusion and Ideational Change

Young people’s frames of reference are influenced on one hand by traditional cultural norms and values passed on to them from their parents, family members, teachers and other members of the community, and on the other hand by new and emergent ideas, beliefs, and ideologies that are brought about by the global age in which they live and spread transnationally. Global change, including access to Western and other international media, markets, and youth culture on one hand and the spread of transnational religious movements on the other, are potentially important new elements shaping the contemporary lives of young people in their local context.

Globalization contributes to the construction of a global culture. The proliferation of fast food outlets, chain stores, and homogeneous shopping malls in cities throughout the world means that parts of many cities come to resemble one another. Mass media are also an extremely influential agent for imparting knowledge to young people and socializing them to particular aspirations, values, and attitudes, often in contradiction to the traditions of their culture (see, for example, Condon, 1988). Western films, radio, and television have contributed to a global teen culture of music and fashion. Reading the newspaper, listening to the radio, or watching the news on television are not only important for the effects that they have on a young person’s attitudes and behaviors, but also for signifying inclusion and access to knowledge in an increasingly interconnected world. The associated effects may be viewed both positively and negatively: positively for the transmission of knowledge and exposure to different ideas and cultures, and negatively for the promotion of materialistic values, for exposure to graphic sex and violence, and for time spent in front of the television rather than in more interactive activities.

Access to mass media varies substantially by geographic region as well as by social class. In Latin America, which is now a predominantly urban region, the vast majority of young people have practically universal access to information through radio or television, and e-mail is now a common means of communication, particularly among urban middle- and upper-class adolescents (Welti, 2002). At the other end of the spectrum, large numbers of young people, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, report that they still do not have access, either in their homes or outside them, to radio, television, or a newspaper.

It is not clear, however, whether the emergence of a global teen culture of music and fashion really has had an impact on issues related to sexuality, marriage, and reproduction. According to Stromquist and Monkman (2000a:21), “local groups often reshape their local identities when they meet challenges related to globalization processes, but they do not abandon

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