TRYING to win over a fickle teenager isn’t easy. Trying to win over millions of them every night is — as the kids say — cray cray.

But that’s exactly what MTV has had to do since its inception in the 1980s as the cable channel for disenchanted youth.

“Unlike other brands that get a lock on the audience and age with them, we have to shed our skin and reinvent ourselves,” said Stephen K. Friedman, president of MTV.

The channel is in the process of shedding its skin again, this time to appeal to viewers age 14 to 17 who have different preferences than the 18- to 25-year-olds who make up the older portion of the millennial generation (a cohort born roughly between 1981 and 2000 and also known as Generation Y or the Facebook Generation).

On Tuesday, MTV will introduce its latest deep dive into generational behavior: a nationwide study of 1,800 “young millennials.” The findings will be presented to marketers and MTV programmers to help show how the channel and its sponsors can speak to the younger end of the audience.

These younger viewers grew up looking up to Katniss Everdeen, the gritty heroine from “The Hunger Games,” rather than Harry Potter, the study says. Older millennials were told by their baby boomer parents that “they were special and gifted, with a magic wand capable of changing the world” and “the world is your oyster.” The Generation X parents who are raising this younger crop of millennials tell them “you have to create your own oyster,” the MTV study says.

Generational studies have been pivotal to MTV’s past success. Faced with double-digit declines in ratings in 2008, the channel embarked on an immense research project to try to understand the country’s roughly 80 million millennials and, in turn, to get them to want their MTV.

That study helped inform hits like “Jersey Shore” and “Teen Mom” and by 2010, ratings among MTV’s core audience of 12- to 34-year-olds had increased by 24 percent to 895,000 viewers, according to Nielsen.

“Candidly, we were hanging onto Gen Xers a little too long,” said Mr. Friedman, who called the 2008 research “a wake-up call.”

Last year, the average number of prime-time viewers age 12 to 34 fell 23 percent, to 834,000, compared with the same period a year earlier, according to Nielsen. (Jason Rzepka, senior vice president for brand communications and public affairs at MTV, pointed out that online streaming had affected nightly ratings, but that the channel remained the most watched basic cable channel among viewers 12 to 24.)

The new study, called “Young Millennials Will Keep Calm & Carry On,” comes at a turning point for MTV. “Jersey Shore,” the channel’s highest rated series ever, ended in December after six seasons. Around the same time, the channel began to notice shifts in behavior and tastes among younger viewers.

“Catfish: The TV Show,” a documentary series about online dating that had its premiere last year, emerged as a surprise hit with an average of 3.2 million viewers an episode and was the highest-rated premiere for an 11 p.m. series. MTV has attributed the show’s popularity, in part, to this younger demographic.

Alison Hillhouse, the vice president of MTV Insights who oversaw the study, said 14- to 17-year-olds were even more comfortable with social media and technology than their older siblings. She calls them “digital latchkey kids” because their hands-off Generation X parents have largely left them alone to navigate the Web.

Unlike the “Yes We Can” optimistic older millennials, this younger group of teenagers has a raised awareness of economic problems, MTV says.

“At age 13 they know they won’t find their dream job right away,” Ms. Hillhouse said. More than three-quarters of 14- to 17-year-olds interviewed said, “I worry about the negative impact that today’s economy will have on me or my future.”

Viacom, the parent company of MTV, is known for its in-depth audience research and for matching that research with marketers’ needs. MTV will take its latest findings to advertisers like Procter & Gamble, Unilever and Pepsi to help inform them about what type of ads will work on this more pragmatic group of teenagers.

“There’s always the research people at the table that helps us really ground the ideas in insight,” said Claudia Cahill, chief content officer at OMD, part of the Omnicom Media Group unit of the Omnicom Group. Ms. Cahill serves as the intermediary between MTV and brands like Pepsi, Hewlett-Packard and State Farm.

Research played a role in Pepsi’s “Live for Now” campaign on MTV and its sister channel, VH1, Ms. Cahill said.

“Marketers who aren’t of this generation have to use tactics to get these teenagers involved,” she said.

The trick for MTV will be to not rely too heavily on cultural anthropology. Skeptics of MTV’s approach say a research-based algorithm could never lead to the alchemy of Madonna in a conical bra, the couch-side cackles of “Beavis and Butt-head” or the first season of “The Real World,” when viewers got a first glimpse at “what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real.”

MTV will be taking its findings to writers and producers, but Mr. Friedman says he wants the findings to inform creators, rather than dictate what they create. Research, he says, is not brought into the development process until the channel tests pilots with focus groups.

“It’s a marriage of science and art, and you don’t want to underestimate the importance of the art,” Mr. Rzepka of MTV said.