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The Case Against Adolescence
September 19, 2007 1:05 PM   Subscribe

"Imagine what it would feel like—or think back to what it felt like—when your body and mind are telling you you're an adult while the adults around you keep insisting you're a child." An interview with psychologist Robert Epstein, who argues that American teens are far more intelligent, capable, and moral than we give them credit for. His new book, The Case Against Adolescence, suggests that infantilization of teens leads to psychological problems. See also Epstein's article "The Myth of the Teen Brain" [PDF] from Scientific American Mind.
posted by 912 Greens (61 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
PT sucks, but this is pretty good. Thank god someone has the guts to say this. Adolescence is a multibillion dollar industry, and our whole society's been invested in it since the middle of the 20th century.

Childhood itself, as a concept, only dates to the mid-1700s.
posted by nasreddin at 1:10 PM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Are american teens treated like kids or something? European ones seem to at least get given the chance to act like sensible human beings instead of irresponsible thugs. Once you've been tared with 'problem child' brush though your lucks probably not so great.
posted by public at 1:11 PM on September 19, 2007


I thought we were still complaining about the infantilization of 20- and 30-year olds.

Next up: the infantilization of children.
posted by GuyZero at 1:14 PM on September 19, 2007


My experience has been the opposite. Children who had childhoods with playing, rolling in dirt, awkward teenage years and all, grew up to be mostly normal productive adults. It's the ones who were treated as adults, allowed full freedom to do and try everything, that still act like children despite being over 30.
posted by Danaid at 1:14 PM on September 19, 2007


Are american teens treated like kids or something?

American children are cheap labor and war fodder. Americans can drive at 16 (14 in some states) to get to minimum wage jobs, be drafted at 18, but they can't drink until 21, and until relatively recently in US history couldn't vote until they turned 21.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:16 PM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Epstein just wants the AoC laws lowered so he can bang high school cheerleaders. Where are Chris Hansen and the Perverted Justice crowd when you need them?
posted by MikeMc at 1:16 PM on September 19, 2007


The thing that American "adults" seem to do is assume that the lack of self control and social skills evident in the average teenager are because they haven't grown up yet; my personal experience is that it's driven more by (a) overwhelming amounts of hormones being pumped through their bodies, and (b) parents who don't give their kids enough credit when they're younger, either. If you don't give kids responsibility and autonomy (within reason) when they're, say, six years old -- and you don't acknowledge that even a brilliant mind struggles in the face of hormonally-driven physical changes -- you get teenagers who act like the infants we pretend they are.

Of course, check back with me in ten years when I have teenagers; my opinion may have changed by then.
posted by davejay at 1:17 PM on September 19, 2007


My experience has been the opposite. Children who had childhoods with playing, rolling in dirt, awkward teenage years and all, grew up to be mostly normal productive adults. It's the ones who were treated as adults, allowed full freedom to do and try everything, that still act like children despite being over 30.

It's a tough call, a fine line; giving chlidren a certain amount of autonomy and responsibility isn't the same thing as full freedom to do and try everything, and so I'll second what you're saying (even though what I said at first glance appears to conflict with it.)
posted by davejay at 1:18 PM on September 19, 2007


The main thing that keeps teens from being adult is that, in the developed world at least, they have no way of supporting themselves -- they haven't learned any marketable skills yet. Strong bodies aren't worth anything unless your economy is based on farming or walrus-hunting or such as that. If we call them adults they become adults who are still living at home and sponging off mom and dad, a category of adult that gets no respect (indeed a lot of laughing disrespect, about which teenagers are intensely sensitive.) But the only other choice is to pretend that they're not really adults, they're still children sort of, so it's OK that they don't work for their bread.
posted by jfuller at 1:25 PM on September 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


I have raised teens to adulthood and I agree with the article.
posted by konolia at 1:26 PM on September 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


Maybe it's true. After all, something led to my psychological problems.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 1:29 PM on September 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


I think this is one of those genie's out of the bottle things. It wouldn't be impossible to convince everyone and their kids that teens are capable of acting as probationary adults (rather than, say, thugs on probation, first implied than actual) but it'd be a huge shift. The idea is ingrained in our school systems, our laws, and especially our culture and economy.

USA is the birthplace of multimedia-based culture, and one of that culture's central myths is that teens are rebels and parents just don't understand. Rock and roll is based on this idea. Rap is based on this idea. More importantly, MTV and Abercrombie and Fitch are based on this idea. There's too much money invested in the meaning making machine to try and fight it off with mere reason.

That's maybe not a good reason to give up tho.
posted by es_de_bah at 1:29 PM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Are american teens treated like kids or something?
Are you kidding? American adults are treated like kids!
posted by Karmakaze at 1:31 PM on September 19, 2007 [6 favorites]


I started to try this test "How Adult Are You?" but it was too long, I am at work, and I tend to answer every yes-or-no question with depends and that isn't option. Did I fail?
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 1:34 PM on September 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


than * then
posted by es_de_bah at 1:34 PM on September 19, 2007


Quack
posted by caddis at 1:39 PM on September 19, 2007


The basic problem, in my view, is that while you can consider teenagers 'adults' in the historical sense, society is just to complex for these 'young adults.'

Think about it, as an adult, you face choices that affect your life from then on, nothing like what you would see in childhood. But teenagers don't have enough experience being an adult to really choose wisely. So it makes sense to protect them.

But on the other hand, the idea that people are "children" until they are 18 is just ridiculous. Either have three separate groups: Teens, Children, and Adults, or make Teenager Hood a subset of adulthood, not childhood.
posted by delmoi at 1:40 PM on September 19, 2007


The main thing I remember about being a teenaged male is that everybody just assumes that you're up to no good. I mean, yeah, they're probably right, but still, I think there's a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy at work. For all intents and purposes, you're at the age where it's no longer appropriate to hang out at your parents house, yet, no matter where you go, nobody really wants you around. No wonder kids get into trouble.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:41 PM on September 19, 2007 [8 favorites]


I started to try this test "How Adult Are You?" but it was too long

I looked at that. What the hell does spelling have to do with adulthood.
posted by delmoi at 1:42 PM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Snarking aside for now. He seems to have a valid point, but in my skimming I didn't notice him taking into account things like, well, this forum. It strikes me that teens now do have a chance to be more exposed to adults. There are a lot of stories of kids that successfully start a business because the digital world gives them the exposure, tools, but also cover they need to participate in this world. I doubt the education system is changing anytime soon though -- we need some place to put these people.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 1:43 PM on September 19, 2007


Afroblanco, my husband talks about the same thing - he mentioned once a rec center he went to as a teen - he and his friends would play pool only to be kicked out after an hour. They asked where they could go? They were told to go home. Any where else they went in his town they were chased out because they were teenagers. What's a kid to do?
posted by agregoli at 1:43 PM on September 19, 2007


I wanted to know (on the Adulthood test) why having a kid factored into how adult you are. And spelling? And some of the other things on there? Totally silly.
posted by agregoli at 1:44 PM on September 19, 2007


I am 96% adult. 22/M
posted by lohmannn at 1:49 PM on September 19, 2007


Remember when you were a high school freshman and you were terrified that the seniors were going to depants you/ stuff you in a locker/ shove you into the other gender's bathroom/ etc.? But the seniors could hardly be bothered to look in your direction; it was the sophomores you had to watch out for. Not long after being "beanies" themselves, they were eager to exact the revenge of whatever transgressions the suffered on the new class. But aside from catharsis, this allowed them to puff their chests and assert their rank in the age hierarchy. They know things the freshmen don't. They've seen more.

This occurs between two groups with any sizable age gap. (Sizable being relative; first graders look down on kindergarteners for not knowing how to read; the middle-aged look down on twentysomethings for their wide-eyed naivety.) This is just another example of that. Everyone has feelings of nostalgia and experience that they feel justified in lording over those with fresher nostalgias and less experience.

Are adolescents intelligent, capable, moral and real in every way that you and I are? Of course. But that little bit of experience we have that they don't gives us the unspoken right to belittle their capabilities. The problem adolescents face is they have all levels of the hierarchy bearing down on them, with no one beneath them but children.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 1:52 PM on September 19, 2007 [4 favorites]


I'm all for giving adolescents more responsibility, like mowing my lawn, getting jobs before 16 and doing their own laundry.
posted by NationalKato at 1:54 PM on September 19, 2007


Yeah, Afroblanco has a very good point. I have an almost 16 year old son and there is really nowhere for them to go. Good thing that some of his friends have more tolerant parents than me, because I don't want them at my house either. Yargh, no, never. I did the "cool mom you can hang out here" thing with his older sister and I have since learned wisdom. So it does leave them with nowhere to go and they're constantly being "moved on" by the cops, or business owners, or pretty much anyone.

I've thought for a long time that American teen rules were unnecessarily restrictive. I spent part of my own adolescence in Europe, where we were basically treated like annoying adults and that was good. It was hard to come back to the States and discover that I couldn't drink, couldn't smoke, couldn't stay out late, couldn't, in fact, do much at all except join the army or get married. It may be one of the reasons I went ahead and got married at 19. It's definitely one of the reasons why I give my children way more freedom than the current norm. I've never understood why parents seem to think that their intensely supervised, babied children will turn into totally autonomous adults overnight when they go to college. If they don't get a chance to learn how to make mistakes and how to become autonomous in a slightly controlled setting, how exactly are they supposed to learn?

That said, if my son is an Adult with an Adult Brain I'll eat, oh, whatever inedible object is around at the moment. Adults hardly ever think it's fun to skateboard at midnight across busy intersections or throw themselves into shallow water from high trees, right? Or blow things up? Right? Isn't he going to grow out of that?
posted by mygothlaundry at 1:59 PM on September 19, 2007 [7 favorites]


The opposite is bad, too:
"How a 29-year-old convicted pedophile posed as a seventh-grader—and fooled his classmates, teachers, and even the grown men who'd taken him in."

Sorry, I couldn't resist. I didn't mean to invoke Paedogeddon.
posted by redteam at 2:03 PM on September 19, 2007


Teenagers have long been treated like criminals by the adults around them. Now, many of them are, or act that way. Self-fulfilling prophecy indeed - if you tell someone something long enough, after a while, they begin to believe it.

I feel bad for teenagers these days. I really do. I'm glad I had mine when I did, though if it had been five years earlier, I would probably be happier about that and even more miserable about being alive now. I guess you take the good with the bad.

I worked for a while with some gang kids who were trying to get out of the life and make a respectable go at the world. They were all really good people; in fact, most of them were a lot nicer, more honourable, and harder-working than the adults I worked with at the time. I've found that to be largely true pretty much across the board. All you have to do is treat them like human beings.

It makes me sad when you notice how surprised they are at first when you approach them that way. What a sorry testament to our future, the way we treat our young people.
posted by perilous at 2:21 PM on September 19, 2007



USA is the birthplace of multimedia-based culture, and one of that culture's central myths is that teens are rebels and parents just don't understand.


Every read the Iliad? Achilles was the 18-yr old punk. Agamemnon was the old wise guy who constantly fought him. The rebellious adolescent is the oldest story in the world.

Epstein's point is not about rebellion, it's about making adolescents more like adults, more institutionalized into society (rather than the home or the school), taking on the burdens and responsibilities of adulthood. This is not healthy, in my opinion. The problem is the society adults operate in. Teenagers need to rebel, because that rebellion is a commentary on adult society. They need to explore the world and their place in it. American society is extremely regimented, and Epstein is suggesting that adolescents be squeezed into this sooner.

He compares adolescents to adults and finds them equally capable, and from that concludes that adolescents are as capable as adults. The conclusion he's supposed to draw is that the adults are stunted, and that the structure and institutions of society are responsible.

Teens should be learning from the people they are about to become. When young people exit the education system and are dumped into the real world, which is not the world of Britney Spears, they have no idea what's going on and have to spend considerable time figuring it out. - Epstein.

Do you see this is a recipe for social and class stagnation? Who are the teens going to become? Their parents? This is great if mommy and daddy are anesthesiologists, but not if they are Account Managers. Does Epstein really think the cube farms of today are going to survive another twenty years? There is no apprenticeship for Sales Rep, probably the single most popular job title in America.

The only point in here is that most adolescents shouldn't bother with college. The system is broken because it requires college degrees for things that you learn on the job in two months. Most people are going to college to get the paper.

Young people need to have more latitude to break society's rules than adults, because that is how the society will evolve. I'd rather the 15year old lock themselves in their room painting or writing or creating than going out and getting a job or their own apartment.

All the responsibility that is needed is for the parents and society to encourage teenagers to find something they love and pursue it, regardless of the immediate financial benefit, because that allows the teenager to develop as a person.
posted by Pastabagel at 2:27 PM on September 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


Think about it, as an adult, you face choices that affect your life from then on, nothing like what you would see in childhood. But teenagers don't have enough experience being an adult to really choose wisely. So it makes sense to protect them.

I think young adults are certainly capable of making these decisions from a much earlier age than American society assumes that they are able to; with the exception of things that occur purely as a result of impulsiveness (and are, even among young people, almost immediately regretted) I think most people are capable of understanding the idea of a particularly consequential decision from about puberty onwards.

However, by constantly trying to "protect" young people from consequential decisions, we reinforce the idea that there are few consequences for any actions that you take before you're an "adult." (And, of course, when you suddenly become a legal adult and don't feel any different, there doesn't seem to be much reason to start acting any differently; hence you get twentysomethings acting like 14-year-olds.)

Rather than trying to 'protect' young people from reality, we need to gradually ratchet up both the responsibility and the exposure to consequential actions from an early age, so that there is not a period in which thoughtless action is tolerated or rewarded. (But where it's punished with appropriate mildness in view of the actor's experience.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:32 PM on September 19, 2007


"Imagine what it would feel like—or think back to what it felt like—when your body and mind are telling you you're an adult while the adults around you keep insisting you're a child."

Yeah, I remember having unprotected sex, drinking, flunking outta college at first, partying and not thinking of the future or others, 'cause dammit, I was 18 and adult and could do what I want.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:32 PM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


I was all prepared to despise this article, thinking it was going to be "the kids are alright, let 'em do whatever they want," but by the time I got to this I was pretty much in agreement:
Are you saying that teens should have more freedom?

No, they already have too much freedom—they are free to spend, to be disrespectful, to stay out all night, to have sex and take drugs. But they're not free to join the adult world, and that's what needs to change.

Unfortunately, the current systems are so entrenched that parents can do little to counter infantilization. No one parent can confer property rights, even though they would be highly motivating. Too often, giving children more responsibility translates into giving them household chores, which just causes more tension and conflict. We have to think beyond chores to meaningful responsibility—responsibility tied to significant rights.

With a competency-based system in place, our focus will start to change. We'll become more conscious of the remarkable things teens can do rather than on culture-driven misbehavior. With luck, we might even be able to abolish adolescence.
Kids are indeed smart and capable, but (obviously) they lack experience, so give them experience and let them interact with older people. Makes sense.
posted by languagehat at 2:33 PM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


pastabagel, situating rebellion as an adolescenct endeavor just makes for impotent rebellion. While it was allegedly possible in the 60s to harness the rashness and vibrancy of youth into a successful young people's movement (still not convinced of that) the act has become formalized, commercialized, and channeled into culturally condoned (and highly profitable) outlets like music and fashion.

the bullshit truism "if you're 18 and not a liberal you've got no heart, but if you're 30 and not a conservative, you' ve got no brain," is lent undue credence by the belief that teens are meant to rebel. Personally, I think misplaced rebellion now for the sake of convention and cool is worse than belated rebellion later due to genuine disillusionment in a system that you've tried to invest in.

Instead we have a period in which to rebel fashionably and a period in which to acquiesce fashionably.

I know that 'late youth' has always been brash with the novelty of new power, but youth's brashness has never been so institutionalized as it is now. the result is an increasingly spoon-fed, designed-to-be-incoherent rebellion en mas by a targeted marketing group, designed to look silly and out of date a half decade down the road.

that's not what teens need to be empowered. what they need is actual rights.

as i said before, tho, the institutions are already in place. only real, non-ageist rebellion will dismantle them now. and the rebellion market is too crowded by cynical assholes.
posted by es_de_bah at 2:43 PM on September 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


on preview, we agree on several points. but i still maintain that the "youth rebellion vs society" ideal has been rather insidiously co-opted over the last 50-60 years.
posted by es_de_bah at 2:46 PM on September 19, 2007


What?! There's nowhere for teens to go? What happened to Taco Bell parking lots?
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 2:49 PM on September 19, 2007


Precisely. You get chased out of there too. Loitering is still a crime where I'm from.
posted by agregoli at 2:50 PM on September 19, 2007


The thing is, it isn't that teenagers are better than you think, it's that adults are worse.

More than half of all new H.I.V./AIDS diagnoses in 2005 were given to middle-aged Americans, up from less than one-third a decade ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

What experts label “adolescent risk taking” is really baby boomer risk taking. It’s true that 30 years ago, the riskiest age group for violent death was 15 to 24. But those same boomers continue to suffer high rates of addiction and other ills throughout middle age, while later generations of teenagers are better behaved. Today, the age group most at risk for violent death is 40 to 49, including illegal-drug death rates five times higher than for teenagers.

posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:00 PM on September 19, 2007 [6 favorites]


American children are cheap labor and war fodder. Americans can drive at 16 (14 in some states) to get to minimum wage jobs

We should immediately give the brightest 5% of 16-year-olds a license to practice medicine!
posted by Kwantsar at 3:00 PM on September 19, 2007


"What?! There's nowhere for teens to go? What happened to Taco Bell parking lots?"

Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K.
posted by klangklangston at 3:15 PM on September 19, 2007


Today, the age group most at risk for violent death is 40 to 49, including illegal-drug death rates five times higher than for teenagers.

I think that includes accidents and suicides so I'd say "violent deaths" is a bit misleading.
posted by MikeMc at 3:25 PM on September 19, 2007


I haven't had a chance to read the whole link, but I would just like to add a bit of historical perspective to this discussion, because the history of adolescence is a bit of a hobby/bugbear of mine.

A prolonged adolescence is not simply a modern phenomenon. In the early modern period (c1500-1800), people may have started work young. Most began some light work around age 7, moving to more steady work as a teenager, often in someone else's home as an apprentice or servant. But the servants and apprentices would be treated like dependants in the new home, subject to the authority of their employers as if they were children. Nor were they recognised as adults by others - I've been looking at 17th century English wills, and both men and women then reached their age of majority for inheritances, even small ones, at 21 years old. In 17th century France, neither men nor women could marry without their parents permission until they were 25; they were still minors. And the average age of marriage in most of north-western Europe was in the early to mid twenties for women, and mid- to late twenties for men.

There are some differences - obviously working isn't the same as school, and both children and teenagers were expected to contribute financially to the family. But people didn't "grow up" faster in the past - society didn't consider them to be mature at all, but to be youths, to be at a place in-between childhood and adulthood (and lots of them got into trouble, rebelled, had riots, etc, just like modern teenagers). Full adulthood didn't come until they had established their own households and independance - which most did not do until a later age than people did in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
posted by jb at 3:29 PM on September 19, 2007 [6 favorites]


I propose...that the rights, privileges, duties of adult citizens be made available to any young person, of whatever age, who wants to make use of them. --John Holt, from Escape From Childhood
posted by jaronson at 3:42 PM on September 19, 2007


Also, I would like to note that childhood is NOT an invention of the 1700s - that was a claim made by Lawrence Stone. Lawrence Stone was a great historian, but his work on the family just didn't hold up to subsequent research and has just about been entirely overturned. Also, he liked to stretch his theories past what the evidence would bear.

If you are interested, Barbara A. Hanawalt has done some good research on peasant families and on childhood in the middle ages. Also, here is a book of essays on Youth in the Middle Ages. What I was saying earlier about children and work in the 17th century is based on research by Margaret Spufford (the exact reference is escaping me right now, but it was from a chapter or article on education, at what ages lower children were likely to recieve schooling, etc).
posted by jb at 3:48 PM on September 19, 2007 [4 favorites]


I just took the "how adult are you quiz", and apparently fat people are no longer adults.
posted by fermezporte at 4:47 PM on September 19, 2007


To be fair, fat people aren't allowed to vote in most states.
posted by klangklangston at 4:55 PM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Studies show that we reach the highest levels of moral reasoning while we're still in our teens. Those capabilities parallel higher-order cognitive reasoning abilities, which peak fairly early. Across the board, teens are far more capable than we think they are.

After reading the article again, I am mainly stuck on one big question - if we admit that teens are far more competent then we give them credit for, how would this effect the justice system?

Right now, minors are subject to a different set of laws and sentencing guidelines then adults, on the assumption that one is less capable of moral reasoning at that age.

If we were to treat teens more like adults, would we also need to sentence them as adults? Or would there be some sort of "competency-based test" to determine sentencing?
posted by Afroblanco at 4:59 PM on September 19, 2007


A simple defense of the current sentencing guidelines (which I think you raise an interesting point about) would be that experiental wisdom, aside from critical faculties, helps people make decisions, and lacking that can reduce our ability to find people fully culpable.
posted by klangklangston at 5:34 PM on September 19, 2007


mygothlaundry: some recent observations of mine on a) mid-20s enlisted men and b) mid-40s physicians and pharma guys suggest that no, these things don't change. Blowing shit up stays awesome until you're cold and in the ground.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:48 PM on September 19, 2007


A simple defense of the current sentencing guidelines (which I think you raise an interesting point about) would be that experiental wisdom, aside from critical faculties, helps people make decisions, and lacking that can reduce our ability to find people fully culpable.
posted by klangklangston at 8:34 PM on September 19 [+] [!]


Well, if you are disqualified from the penalties of the justice system due to your inexperience leading to immaturity I do not see how you are qualified for full adult rights and responsibilities. This guy is just loony. This whole line of argument strikes me as being along the lines of "if you can't be original, but want to get noticed, say something outrageous."
posted by caddis at 5:59 PM on September 19, 2007


If family court were pretty much abolished for teens, they would indeed be subject to the same sentencing guidelines as adults.

However, they would also be afforded the same rights and privileges as an adult defendant, such as the right to counsel and trial by jury, etc., which are not always available in the juvenile justice system. Some children's rights thinkers believe the suite of rights would even out the stricter penalties.
posted by Topkid at 6:39 PM on September 19, 2007


We had a Japanese exchange student for eight months. That guy couldn't pick his nose without help. I bet his roommates are teaching him important life lessons now, or he is slowly starving to death on ramen.
posted by mecran01 at 6:39 PM on September 19, 2007


Childhood itself, as a concept, only dates to the mid-1700s.

It drives me batty that people still swallow this idea. Childhood as a concept has been around a hell of a lot longer than that. One guy says otherwise in 1968 and everyone forever quotes him like it's truth no matter how many times it's debunked.
posted by Hildegarde at 6:46 PM on September 19, 2007


Thanks for setting me straight, jb.
posted by nasreddin at 6:52 PM on September 19, 2007


Is there any evidence that typical US adults are particularly "adult" in their behaviours and decision-making?

Given the silliness of some of the mass consumerism, inane loan systems, dietary habits, television programs, and so on and so forth...

...well, no, the adults are pretty childish, too. Honestly, take a look around: our society and our attitudes toward life are certainly less serious than they were fifty years ago.

OTOH, I'm having way more fun than my grandfather ever did. Given that we're all dead in the end, I think "more fun" is perfectly sensible goal.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:08 PM on September 19, 2007


Childhood itself, as a concept, only dates to the mid-1700s.

Yeah, I don't think that the concept of childhood is a social construct. I mean, juvenile animals of many species exhibit a lot of the same behaviors humans associate with childhood, like playfulness. I think what Epstein is saying is something completely different. When you're an adolescent, you're much more of an adult than a child, at least biologically speaking. That's part of what I found interesting about the 2nd article--it just seems like a lot of people are trying to use "science" to prove that teens can't handle any kind of adult responsibility, when maybe it's more of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I mean, I know plenty of people in their 20s, 30s, etc. who lack impulse control and other signs of maturity.

The thing is, you learn to take on adult responsibility by practicing, you know? I posted this because I've been thinking for a long time that adolescents are getting cheated both ways--they're not trusted to even hang out in a public space without being accused of starting some kind of trouble. Yet at the same time, they're not expected to take on real responsibilities--the kind that force you to grow up and become a real adult. Personally, I learned more in the way of "marketable skills" from working crap temp jobs than I did in college.
posted by 912 Greens at 7:23 PM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


I love it when correlation becomes causation as soon as it ends up on CNN. Psychiatry, unfortunately, lives and breathes this very fallacy.

Even cooler, however, is when psychiatry says, on the one hand: "the juvenile mind is different! Culpability cannot be assumed!" And on the other: "the bipolar mind is the same, juvenile or adult! Give all the same medicines!"
posted by TheLastPsychiatrist at 9:12 PM on September 19, 2007


This sounds a lot like some of John Taylor Gatto's ideas.
posted by klarck at 5:44 AM on September 20, 2007


he thing is, you learn to take on adult responsibility by practicing, you know? I posted this because I've been thinking for a long time that adolescents are getting cheated both ways--they're not trusted to even hang out in a public space without being accused of starting some kind of trouble.

That is a real issue. Parents have become much more protective of their kids in the last generation or so. However, the guy in the article wants to go way beyond "practicing." You learn responsibility by living up to your responsibilities on small issues and thereby earning more responsibility for larger issues. You don't learn it by being thrown into the ocean, sink or swim. Sure that is great for the ones who swim, sucks for the ones who drown, especially if they never had swimming lessons. We stock the beach with life guards to save your ass while you practice.
posted by caddis at 6:46 AM on September 20, 2007


In the late 60's, it had become rather broadly understood that teens were getting the shaft, when it comes to little things like, stuff to do, places to go. Too young for adult places, too old for the playgrounds. Then chased away for "hanging out" in parkinglots, etc. (I'm pretty sure I've typed this on MeFi before). So they opened "youth centers". Some were lame, some helped a little, probably some helped a lot. Some probably had some negative impact.

So what happened to that wisdom? Youth are as fucked-over today as ever. I know this all part of the struggle for everyone to figure out how to raise successful kids, but maybe we need to take care how exactly we define 'successful', and it's scope. Success too often is simply defined as grades.

As for the commercialization of youth: IMO, the commercialization was both part of profit-seeking, as well as controlling. As someone above said, the rebellion is carefully crafted and marketed, to keep it within acceptable limits. (which, obviously, means it isn't really rebellion at all).

The commercialization/control of the youth market was such a huge success, it has continued, and now, for way too many people, their very personalities are something they've learned from watching some TV show, and its commercials (the infantilization of men, in general, comes most to mind).
posted by Goofyy at 7:03 AM on September 20, 2007


All I can say is that teenagers drive me up the wall.
posted by rougy at 1:00 PM on September 20, 2007


It's their job, and they do it well.
posted by caddis at 6:45 PM on September 20, 2007


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