Thursday, January 24, 2013

"Children" and Adults

In chapter six of The Allure of Nymphets I shared that prior to The Renaissance and the invention of the printing press, there was no distinction between children and adults. Furthermore, the concept of childhood or children didn't exist. "Children," especially after the age of puberty, were considered small adults.
 

In the current issue of New York magazine in an article titled Why You Truly Never Leave High School, which is about how high school is a sadistic institution and how new research suggests that high school may be worst possible place for a vulnerable 16-year-old mind, the following was written:
 

Until the Great Depression, the majority of American adolescents didn’t even graduate from high school. Once kids hit their teen years, they did a variety of things: farmed, helped run the home, earned a regular wage. Before the banning of child labor, they worked in factories and textile mills and mines. All were different roads to adulthood; many were undesirable, if not outright Dickensian. But these disparate paths did arguably have one virtue in common: They placed adolescent children alongside adults. They were not sequestered as they matured. Now teens live in a biosphere of their own. In their recent book Escaping the Endless Adolescence, psychologists Joseph and Claudia Worrell Allen note that teenagers today spend just 16 hours per week interacting with adults and 60 with their cohort. One century ago, it was almost exactly the reverse.
  
Something happens when children spend so much time apart from adult company. They start to generate a culture with independent values and priorities. James Coleman, a renowned mid-century sociologist, was among the first to analyze that culture in his seminal 1961 work, The Adolescent Society, and he wasn’t very impressed. “Our society has within its midst a set of small teen-age societies,” he wrote, “which focus teen-age interests and attitudes on things far removed from adult responsibilities.” 

It would be interesting to see how many age-discrepant relationships developed prior to The Great Depression compared to today.



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