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14 Stereotypes We Need to Drop

Stereotypes about age, relationships, and interests can do real damage.

Now that we're on the cusp of a new decade, it's time to step back and take a big-picture look at how we've been doing things—and how we might be able to do them better. We can start by rethinking the assumptions and stereotypes we hold about others. Of course there are plenty of serious and damaging stereotypes we should all be working hard to get rid of, but there are also smaller, less obvious assumptions that many of us make on a day-to-day basis: conclusions we make based on people's ages, their jobs, their relationships, and even their hobbies. To start things right in 2010, here are 14 stereotypes we need to drop.

Single people are eager for relationships.

smiling man giving his girlfriend a piggyback ride

If romantic comedies are to be believed, any person who's single is just a relationship person who has yet to find the right partner. But among the increasing number of Americans living single, many are doing so by choice, not simply waiting to find the perfect significant other. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that those who stay single have higher self-esteem on average than those who entered relationships that lasted less than a year. So, despite what you may assume, you don't have to keep trying to hook up your single friend with your barista.

Married people are boring.

Happy senior couple dancing and laughing together at home

On the flip side, some single people and unmarried couples might worry that partnering up or taking their relationship to the next level means "settling down": giving up wild nights out, spontaneity, or any fun at all. But numerous researchers and relationship experts emphasize that plenty of married people are still having fun. In fact, successful long-term relationships require some sort of "adventurousness" and a willingness to try new things with one's partner.

And couples that do feel a little stagnant can rebound back from boring. As psychotherapist Tina Tessina, PhD, explains to The Healthy, even married couples who are dealing with sexlessness don't have to stay that way. With the right combination of attention and effort, they can return to the vigor they once had.

Married couples without kids can't wait to have them.

two dads playing with baby

When a couple gets married, their social circle can suddenly become unbearably nosy, asking when they're planning to have kids and assuming that's the next phase in their relationship. But a growing number of young couples are opting to go child-free, and feel totally comfortable with that choice. As sociology professor Amy Blackstone sums it up to Today, "We will miss some experiences, but I don't think that because that is true, that it necessarily follows we're unhappy. I'm very happy with my decision. My husband and I have a life that we love."

Young people are having more sex than ever.


Many of us assume that young people are dating and having sex at increasing rates every year. But a 2017 study in the journal Child Development from psychologists Jean M. Twenge and Heejung Park, found that the percentage of teens who have been on a date is at its lowest ever in recent years—and the percentage of teens having sex is similarly low. Kids today days are not as wild as you think.

Millennials are immature.

Co-workers doing an office chair race

Those born between 1981 and 1996 are still assumed to be less independent and capable of living an adult life than those in earlier generations—whether it's the stereotype that they still live in their parents' basements, or that they don't understand how finances work. But in fact, millennials are just as financially literate and independent as other generations are—and in some ways, more so. Millennials know how much they will need to retire in numbers that are on par with baby boomers and Generation Xers. And a survey of 90,000 workers found that millennials are the most competitive of any generation, with 59 percent saying that competition is "what gets [me] up in the morning."

And they have no loyalty to employers.


Another negative characterization of millennials is that they barely stick around a job long enough to get through training before they move on to the next opportunity. In fact, millennials actually stay with their employers longer than those in Generation X did. According to recent findings from Pew Research, "Millennials are less likely to have been with their employer for less than a year than Generation X workers were at the same age, and they are more likely to have been with their employer for a fairly long period like 3 to 6 years."

Guys don't care about romance.

Young man carrying flower bouquet

Men are often assumed to be less interested in romance than women. But in a number of areas, men have proven to be equally if not more committed to traditional ideas of romance in relationships than women. For example, an oft-cited 1986 study in the Journal of Adolescence found that 48 percent of men believe in love at first sight compared to only 28 percent of women. On the Romantic Beliefs Scale—which asks people how much they agree with statements like "the person I love will make a perfect romantic partner"—men, on average, outscore women. Take that, preconceived notions!

Men and women just think differently.

unhappy man and woman standing back to back

Men are from Mars, women are from Venus? As cognitive neuroscientist Gina Rippon tells The Guardian, while many people maintain the idea that there is a "male brain" and a "female brain," research says that's simply not the case. "The idea of the male brain and the female brain suggests that each is a characteristically homogenous thing and that whoever has got a male brain, say, will have the same kind of aptitudes, preferences, and personalities as everyone else with that 'type' of brain," she says. "We now know that is not the case. We are at the point where we need to say, 'Forget the male and female brain; it's a distraction, it's inaccurate.'"

Relationships with conflicts are unhealthy.

unhappy couple lying back to back

Obviously it's not a good thing if a couple is having shouting matches every other day, but the assumption that having differences with your significant other is unhealthy is not actually true. According to renowned relationship expert John Gottman, 69 percent of relationship conflicts "are perpetual (they keep recurring), so what is required is acceptance of one another's personality differences. Dialogue about these perpetual issues to avoid gridlock and resentment. The goal then is to manage conflict, not resolve it."

Gamers are immature and lazy.

friends playing video games

Regardless of their age, people who play video games still get pigeonholed as immature—and unemployed. But the numbers just don't match the assumptions. According to a 2014 study by LifeCourse Associates, gamers are more likely to be fully employed than non-gamers (42 percent to 39 percent), and also more likely to say they are working in the career they want (45 percent to 37 percent). And you thought they didn't have drive!

Young people are obsessed with social media.

young friends against a wall using their phones

There's no question that Facebook and the other social media platforms transformed the way we interact with one another. But while college and high school students were the ones who first adopted these new forms of communication, they're now setting a new trend: logging off. Market research firm Infinite Dial discovered a decline in Facebook use among people aged 12 to 34, and eMarketer found that, for the first time, a majority of U.S. internet users between the ages of 12 and 17 are not using the platform at least once a month. The reasons run the gamut, from feeling overwhelmed by the time involved to wanting more real-life experiences, but it reflects a shift away from our standard image of young people as social media-obsessed. Keep complaining about Gen Z in your Facebook statuses: They definitely won't see it.

City dwellers are more tech-obsessed than those in rural communities.

Blurred crowd of unrecognizable at the street

Sure, major tech companies are usually based in big cities, but that doesn't mean people in rural communities are all living like they're in the 1800s. For better or worse, those in rural areas are just as internet-obsessed as those in urban areas. In fact, just this year the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (Nimhans) found internet addiction in the youth of rural communities (3.5 percent) to be more than double that of those in urban communities (1.3 percent). Meanwhile, efforts like the Rural Innovation Initiative are bringing high-speed internet to more remote areas in the country.

Big-city dwellers won't help strangers in need.

Couple having disagreement

It's a familiar trope: New Yorkers are too busy worrying about their harried lives to stop and help a stranger in need. While every city has its share of jerks, researcher Robert Levine and his colleagues conducted a range of experiments in cities across the globe, recording how people responded to situations like someone attempting to cross the street, or a person pretending to accidentally drop a pen. He found that those in big cities were absolutely willing to be helpful, but that there was a difference in tone. New Yorkers will totally help you, but they might not be quite as friendly about it as people in more laid-back locales.

You can't teach old workers new tricks.

old man confused by laptop

Just as millennials are unfairly stereotyped as selfish and needy, older workers get smeared as slow to adapt or pick up new skills in the workplace. It's just not true! The average age of a successful entrepreneur is between 42 and 47. And a 2006 study in the Review of General Psychology found that even beyond the age of 80, knowledge and expertise continue to increase. As no less an authority than the Harvard Business Review puts it, "People of every age are motivated to come to work. If you can create an inclusive, fair, and meaningful experience for older employees, as well as younger ones, you'll not only find your company becomes more innovative, engaging, and profitable over time, you will be benefiting society at large."

Alex Daniel
A journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. Read more
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