By Michael Ventre
They seem to come out of nowhere. They have a lot to say. They seek those who will listen.
They are role models. Or are they?
Recently, Bristol Palin, the 18-year-old daughter of Alaska governor and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, set out on a campaign to urge young people to practice abstinence. “If girls realized the consequences of sex, nobody would be having sex,” she told People Magazine. “Trust me. Nobody.” She became pregnant by former boyfriend Levi Johnston and gave birth to a son in late December.
Carrie Prejean, the reigning Miss California and Miss USA contestant, answered a question about gay marriage by saying she was against it, which then created a flap that brought about a raft of other news stories about her.
The actual issues in these cases, and in many others involving those who find sudden fame and then translate that into a platform for their views, raise an interesting debate:
Do these individuals really have an influence on young people? Are they indeed role models?
“They certainly have the potential,” said Kristin Anderson, associate professor of psychology at the University of Houston-Downtown. “Kids tend to find role models that have something in common with them, or potentially in common, such as gender, or ethnicity, or even social class.”