Portrait of the Cuban Adolescent

The behavior of our adolescents goes hand in hand with today´s Cuba, and it has to be understood in this new context. This was revealed by a characterization survey on this sector of the population, conducted for the first time in the nation and whose final results will be published this year

By: Yuniel Labacena Romero

Email: digital@juventudrebelde.cu

2017-01-27 | 17:04:55 EST
Portraits of teenagers Portraits of teenagers Photo: Calixto N. LlanesZoom

January 23, 2017


Before some attractive foreign trends, many could think that the pride of being Cuban is diminishing, but a national survey among adolescents, the age group prone to these expressions, reflects the opposite.

That was the positive conclusion drawn from a characterization survey on this sector of the population conducted in the country for the first time in November 2015, whose final results will be published in a book this year.

The inquiry revealed that most of the interviewees consider themselves happy and express their pride for living in this land. They refer to the Cuban character, to the social achievements, as well as to the civil peace and security.

Other reasons reaffirming this feeling, expressed by 71.1 % of the adolescents surveyed, are national independence, traditions, culture, arts, religion and language.

Researcher from the Centro de Estudios sobre la Juventud and head of this project Keyla Estévez García highlighted the value of the detailed survey, which encompassed 2, 051 individuals through questionnaires, and another thousand were interviewed individually and in focus groups, a sample of 1,381, 135 Cubans between ten and 19 years of age representing the 12.3 % of the population, according to the 2015 Cuban Statistic Yearbook.

The expert stressed that, in general terms, the results endorse what the world has said and written on this stage of the human life, although they also show some unique characteristics of our adolescents, based on Cuba´s socioeconomic context.

Some of the results we advanced here confirm that there is much work to do with this age group, changing a number of policies and concrete actions from school, home and other social spaces in which they interact. All that needs is a comprehensive approach, collective work, and the union of socializing agents in the education of adolescents.

All that should be sped up, as Estévez García insisted, the results confirm that our adolescents are involved and contribute to the development of the country when they are properly motivated.

How was the survey conducted?

Two municipalities were randomly chosen in every territory with 58.9% in capital territories, 28.3 in others and 13.5 in municipalities of Havana, especially Plaza de la Revolución, La Habana Vieja, Arroyo Naranjo y Boyeros.

Males represent 44.3% of the sample and female 54.8 %, students (89.5%), workers (5.7%), while student-workers are 1.2% and 1.9% are unemployed.

Most of the parents surveyed are working in the state sector. Nearly one quarter of the mothers and 5.7% of the parents are registered in no kind of job.

Academic aspirations

 A good half of the population surveyed aims to enter the university, to reach the higher level and pursue scientific degrees through doctorates and masterships. While a fifth wants to achieve the 12th grade.

About 10% referred their wish is to complete the secondary school level, to become a skilled worker or a middle level technician. Almost 10% did not reply or had no definition about aspirations. In this regard 27.6% was not sure about the specialty to be chosen.

About the future profession, a major inclination to the Medical Sciences is observed. This is followed by the Exact Sciences, above Humanities, which can be an indicator of the implemented work of reorientation.

Importance of Education

The main reason expressed about the need of education is to reach university level (34.3%) and because education prepares them to for future occupations (23.3%).

An important number of those surveyed preferred not to answer and a similar number is studying because of their parents, to fulfil a social duty, an obligation, or it is what they have to do.

Over 80% consider education important for the future. Conversely around 14% of the sample gave negative opinions about education. A significant number, 31.75%, does not consider that education is important.

Opinions about teachers

There is a positive perception about today´s teachers or the teachers of previous years. They consider that generally there is knowledge of the subjects taught, they explain the contents appropriately, guiding the students on their professional future, discipline and behavior.

The facts reflect that teachers have better academic preparation than in terms of fostering values, and that they concern over the fulfilment of objectives and the test results, rather than problems and features, as well as the everyday performance of students.

Opinions about school       

School is seen as the place with spaces for socialization (13.9%). Only for a small part it is the place where they feel happy, important and where their rights are respected and their criteria defended.

Only 11.2% of the surveyed ones consider that they learn at school what they need, a similar figure think that it prepares them to face difficulties and guide them about their professional future.

There is a considerable number of students who express that it is a boring place, where they don´t like to be and they attend as an obligation. School is also considered closed, dogmatic and uncreative.

Social indiscipline  

Among the social indisciplines the adolescents recognize to do are the listening to music at any hour, the incorrect use of uniforms, the garbage thrown on the street, leaving school or work early and the ill-treatment of social property. Many of these actions are based on imitations or are done for a higher rank in the group.


The survey showed that 81.8% of adolescents affirm to feel good with friends and see their material and spiritual needs satisfied.

Regarding the main reasons to make friends they refer to the person´s responsibility and discipline, as well as funny character. They also refer to the existence of similar interests and skills at school and at work.

Free Time

The most relevant cultural practices make reference to listening to music and going to the beach, swimming pools or rivers. Also visiting friends and relatives and watching audiovisuals. The national TV programs is viewed by 44.9% of them. There is no satisfaction with the hours dedicated to leisure activities. The least they do is to visit museums and reading.

Consumption Habits

The 11.8% of the population surveyed smoke, 35.7% drink alcohol and 1.7 confessed to use toxics. Most of the surveyed admitted to have consumed these substances only in parties. Cigarettes are the most popular among them.

The males are the ones consuming most cigarettes and toxics, while a light increase among alcoholic drinking females is observed. These habits are most visible is the eastern region.

The age of initiation in these substances is between 14 and 15 years. Nonetheless, there is an important group beginning between 11 and 13, likewise for the consumption of alcohol. Home is among the spaces with highest consumption and even the parents give consent, especially to alcohol.

Family Context   

Age decreases in proportion to living with both parents. The 46.2 of males live with both parents above 44.8% of females.

The 37.7% of males and the 39.4% of females live with the mother only. Single-parent family is higher in the capital in comparison with the rest of the municipalities.

To a lesser extent living with a single parent and the grandparents increases in proportion with age.

Childbearing is uncommon; it was observed only in 1.5% of the males. However, the figure doubles among females. The 2.9% referred to living with the children.

The couples living together was another phenomenon observed in 3.6% of males and 5.8% of women. This consensual union increases in the case of adolescents between 16 and 19 years of age.

The family´s educational function was made evident in the replies, but it was not one of the most mentioned, with only 11.2% of males and 12.9% of females. The 14-15 aged group had a greater prevalence.

Education, professional future, human values, conduct and friends are among the predominating topics in the dialogues at home. Males recognized that they never or almost never talk about these topics.

As the regulating and informative function of the family prevails, there are little talks about body changes, personal appearance, couple´s relationships, sexuality, work and the situation of the country.

The mother continues to be the main source of information and the one adolescents trust most everyday problems, followed by the father, siblings and grandparents. Not telling anyone about problems increases with age. That tendency was observed in 14% of the surveyed population between 16 and 19 years of age.

New technologies                  

Most of the surveyed population revealed to have computers, internet service, music players, mobile phones, by that order. Equipment for videogames is rare, but a good half of the sample enjoy them with the girls prevailing.

The main access is through personal ownership, with the possession of any kind of music player, the mobile phone and the computer as the most representative in that order. A higher number of adolescents have internet access through Wi-Fi spots, which implies spending taken on by the family.

The exchange of pictures, music, videos and games is the main use attributed to new technologies, in the second place it is connected with the search for information for study. Females are the ones with greatest access to internet.

Most of the surveyed adolescent population said the possession and use of technologies make them happy and provide more updated information, creating a feeling of superiority in many.

Student and Youth Organizations

Motivations to join the activities called by the Young Communist League (UJC) and the student organizations (José Martí Pioneers´ Organization and the High School Student Federation) are mainly based on personal likes and as a way of being updated on topics related to the country.

Most of the adolescents feel represented by the organizations; however, the number of students who consider themselves represented by their organization decreases in proportion with age. The non-identification with these is associated with the time available and malfunction.

Happiness and Pride of Being Cuban

Adolescents consider themselves happy by (81.7%) contrary to 12.1 of the sample expressing some unhappiness. the main reason for happiness makes reference to the system of relations (family and friends), as well as the positive emotions experienced.

 The possibility to enjoy civil rights like health, education, work and recreation are other reasons expressed by adolescents to feel happy.

These social achievements are the most important reason which makes adolescents proud of being Cubans. In the western region there are more adolescents with this feeling. The lowest indicator was expressed in Villa Clara, where 37.1% of adolescents affirmed their pride of being Cuban.

Most of the material needs are satisfied in the 43.1% of adolescents, while 36.2% said to be spiritually satisfied. 67.9% of the surveyed population expressed satisfaction with living in Cuba.


The family plays a key role in the development of work concepts. The mother and the father have the greatest influence in this sense, followed by the school environment.

Ideas related to work prevail, by that order, like the satisfaction of material needs, spiritual satisfaction, knowledge applied, upgrading, social duty or other moral qualities.

Those whose parents are working in state entities give more relevance to the possibilities of professional growth, while the children of self-employees are the ones whose priority is to make much money and take trips abroad.

The main problem affecting the surveyed population after work insertion is related to the little guidance and formalization of the training for the job to be done. An important number of workers do not exchange opinions over this matter with their relatives, for example those who do not study or work.

Under the cover of flexibility and broadening of self-employment informal hiring has mounted –generally for short periods or occasionally- The results of this study reveal the participation of adolescent in this practice.

Translated by ESTI        

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