Young Adult Books Have ‘Too Many Swear Words’ (+Rant)

This is something that rubs me the wrong way, but let me give you the story first before I rant my opinion.

According to a new study published in the Mass Communication and Society journal, the characters who swear the most in young adult novels are rich, beautiful, and popular. There were 40 young adult books from the adolescent bestseller list used in the study.

35 out of the 40 books studied were found to use at least one “swear word.” On average the books were found to have 38 instances of bad language. There’s no definition here for what this bad language constitutes. I’m Australian and have heard that “damn it” is a swear word… honestly…

Sarah Coyne, a professor at Brigham Young University, conducted the study. She stated, ”The funny thing about books is that you really don’t know what you’re getting into when you pick one up. I was genuinely surprised by how much profanity some of these books had.”

“The subsequent [truth] that increased profanity within dialogue or first-persona narratives, or third-person familiar narratives, adds to the YA novel, and a kind of challenging that is characteristic of identity formation for all adolescents and young adults, especially in Western culture,” said Schlozman. (ABC)

Like I said earlier, I’ve come across words that for an Australian would never be considered “a swear word” but to an American it is. I would be really interested to hear if these books that were analyzed were only American. The video on ABC’s article on this really started to get me angry. I can’t stand it when mothers start getting all upset because their poor innocent children are being exposed to “bad words”. Swearing won’t turn you into a psychotic murderer. Sure you get to make the decisions about what your children reads, but the 21st century has arrived and unfortunately you’re never going to be able to control what your child reads 24 hours a day. Anyway, I certainly don’t condone anybody “banning” a book because it has some swear words in it. Will we be going in the same direction when Harry Potter came out and parents were crying foul because school libraries were holding a book that condones “witchcraft”? Give me a break.

Do you think there is more bad language in young adult novels? Do the rich, popular, attractive kids swear more than other characters in books?


About Josephine Hardy

A 26-year-old writer from Melbourne, Australia currently living with her husband in Fayetteville, Arkansas (USA). Content Marketing Producer at Simply Measured, hobby genealogist, cat lover, and world traveler.

Posted on May 18, 2012, in Book News and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I’m an adult and I have a problem with curse words. Now, I do curse a lot and have no problem seeing curse words in books but I find that some books overuse them. I was looking this one book and there was a curse word every other sentence. At that point, it is fair to say that the curse words took away from the story because the curse words replaced the emotions or were substitutes for objects. Using curse words too much reflects poorly on the writing, not because using curse words are bad but because they are being used too much that it displaces actual writing.

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