Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Adolescence? No thanks.

For years I have been saying "we're not doing adolescence in our family." I'm sure many people on the message boards and e-mail lists I frequent have quietly snickered and thought "just you wait..." Some have certainly snickered not so quietly. So far I stand by what I have believed all along -- adolescence is a social construct that comes of shortening childhood through the pressures of media, consumerism and peer-culture and delaying adulthood through impoverished expectations of teens and twenty-somethings. It's a period of little true responsibility, peer orientation and severed ties with family that is, anthropologically speaking, an unnatural anomaly. I've felt this in my gizzard since I was a teen myself.

Psychologist Robert Epstein has written a book called "The Case Against Adolescence," which I haven't yet managed to get my hands on. It's at the top of my wishlist. Here are excerpts from an interview he did recently in Psychology Today:

"We have completely isolated young people from adults and created a peer culture. We stick them in school and keep them from working in any meaningful way, and if they do something wrong we put them in a pen with other "children." In most nonindustrialized societies, young people are integrated into adult society as soon as they are capable, and there is no sign of teen turmoil."

"In this country, teens learn virtually everything they know from other teens, who are in turn highly influenced by certain aggressive industries. This makes no sense. Teens should be learning from the people they are about to become."

"The adversarial relationship between parents and offspring is terrible; it hurts both parents and young people. It tears some people to shreds; they don't understand why it is happening and can't get out of it. They don't realize they are caught in a machine that's driving them apart from their offspring—and it's unnecessary."


Epstein's book has just vaulted to the top of my must-read list.

7 comments:

  1. Hmmm - must add yet another book to my wishlist lol.

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  2. What a fantastic post. My kids are far from adolescence, so I hadn't given this too much thought. But I am a fan of Gordon Neufeld, whose theories about the peer orientation would fit right into what Epstein said here.

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  3. I absolutely agree with you. And as a parent a little farther down the road (oldest is 20, the next two are 16 and 13) that it is totally possible to 'not do' adolescence. What I have found is that there is a real need for teens to connect with mentor-type adults who aren't their parents and that their lives are very enriched by this. To me, it is funny that so many homeschooled children end up going to highschool. To me, this is such a crucial time to NOT be in school - it is there that peers fill the gap that adult mentors are needed for and it doesn't work very well. Great post!

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  4. Ah... we have daughters the same age!

    So far, not seen any difference other than what is her basic character & temperament yet. Our 10yo's different. His "emo" style seems to have existed even as a toddler. *haha* So we've been dealing with adolescence since then. And I'm even using teen lingo. *haha* Been reading too many teenager's blogs.

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  5. I typed a long response and then lost it **sigh**

    Let me just say--the term teenager did not even exist until the 1910's; I appreciate the book tip; and I have to agree with idea, although I feel childhood has been extended, rather than cut short...it's as if young adults no longer exist: child to adult with a long stretch of adolescence... which means little in the development of the person the way we have arranged it.

    I do think childhood has been cut short, but due to adolscent expectations and some sort of idolization of adolescence by the younger children and parents eager to be done with the demands and needs of younger children. Very sad to me.

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  6. I find myself with a fourteen year old boy with whom I can actually have a conversation. Enjoying a teenager? How can that possibly be? I'm definitely planning to miss most of the strife that typically comes with adolescence. I don't scoff at all! I am linking over, though.

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  7. My girls are 15 1/2 (the half is important :-) It means the potential to get one's temporary driver's license), and almost 19. I relate to your eloquent post.
    They have always been engaged in our business and a wide variety of ventures. Our oldest has been to Mexico with a friend, and to Buenos Aires (for 8 weeks--participating in a "gap year" program).
    The younger one has interned at the Art Museum, swims on a swim team, worked at a rec center teaching swimming to other hs'd kids and more.
    We share the process with our children, instead of separating them from it.

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