Young adults under 25 are more than twice as likely as all other adults to engage in behaviors considered morally inappropriate by traditional standards, a survey released Monday shows.
Two-thirds (64 percent) of Americans under 25 years old said they used profanity in public, compared to just one out of five Baby Boomers (persons born between post-World War II and the early 1960s), according to The Barna Group survey.
The Baby Boomer generation is known for rebelling against traditional standards of morality.
But the younger generation – known as Mosaics – was nine times more likely than Boomers to have engaged in sex outside of marriage (38 percent vs. 4 percent), six times more likely to have lied (37 percent vs. 6 percent), nearly three times more likely to have gotten drunk (25 percent vs. 9 percent), and twice as likely as Boomers to have watched pornography (33 percent vs. 16 percent).
"We are witnessing the development and acceptance of a new moral code in America," commented George Barna, who directed the survey. "Mosaics have had little exposure to traditional moral teaching and limited accountability for such behavior."
"The moral code began to disintegrate when the generation before them - the Baby Busters - pushed the limits that had been challenged by their parents - the Baby Boomers," he noted. "The result is that without much fanfare or visible leadership, the U.S. has created a moral system based on convenience, feelings, and selfishness."
In May, researchers asked a random sample of 1,003 adults across the United States via telephone if they engaged in any of eight behaviors considered morally objectionable during the past week.
The behaviors included exposure to pornography, using profanity in public, gambling, gossiping, engaging in sexual intercourse with someone to whom they were not married, retaliating against someone, getting drunk, and lying.
A majority of adults had engaged in at least one of the behaviors over that past week.
The most common behavior was using profanity in public. About three out of every ten adults (28 percent) admitted to using foul language. The second most popular behavior was gambling (20 percent), which included purchasing a lottery ticket. This was followed by watching pornography (19 percent), gossiping (12 percent), getting drunk (12 percent), and lying (11 percent).
Having sexual intercourse with someone that respondents were not married to (9 percent) and retaliation (8 percent) were the least common behaviors among those surveyed.
When looking at faith identities, evangelicals were the group most likely to adhere to traditional morality while atheists and agnostics were most likely to reject these values.
For evangelicals, profanity (16 percent) and pornography (12 percent) were the most common behaviors. Less than five percent engaged in inappropriate sex (3 percent), gambling (2 percent), lying (1 percent) or drunkenness (less than one-half of one percent).
In contrast, sixty percent of atheists and agnostics used profanity in public, half watched pornography, and a third got drunk over the past week, according to the survey.
"The consistent deterioration of the Bible as the source of moral truth has led to a nation where people have become independent judges of right and wrong, basing their choices on feelings and circumstances," Barna said. "It is not likely that America will return to a more traditional moral code until the nation experiences significant pain from its moral choices."