Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Why Teens Indulge in Risk-Taking e.g., Girls Gone Wild Videos...



The New York Magazine article The Collateral Damage of a Teenager that was excerpted from All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior reiterated what I wrote in The Allure of Nymphets and on this blog about the history of childhood in America. 

The article states:

Yes, it’s a physiologically distinct phenomenon, too, accompanied by discernible biological changes. But it was “discovered” in the middle of the Progressive Era (in 1904, specifically, by the educator Stanley Hall), which happened to be the same moment the nation was passing myriad laws to protect its young. For the first time, parents were obliged to shelter and support older children, rather than rely on them as wage earners. And what they concluded, after observing these kids for extended periods of time at close range, is that their teenagers were going through a terrible period of “storm and stress.”

And that “storm and stress” can have dire consequences for the parents and the children. As for the children, the article states:

From an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense that adolescents might be more disposed toward risk. Human beings need incentives to leave the family nest. Leaving home is dangerous. But here’s a historical point to consider: Maybe adolescents would be less inclined to jump off roofs and other manners of silliness if they had more positive and interesting ways to express their risk-­taking selves. That was the argument the anthropologist Margaret Mead made in the sixties: The sheltered lives of modern adolescents were robbing them of an improvisational “as-if” period during which they could safely experiment with who they’d ultimately become. (Without romanticizing life in the past, the historian Steven Mintz notes that Eli Whitney opened his own nail factory before going to Yale at 16, and Herman Melville dropped out of school at 12 to work “in his uncle’s bank, as a clerk in a hat store, as a teacher, a farm laborer, and a cabin boy on a whaling ship—all before the age of 20.”)

As for the parents:

For parents, however, the picture is a good deal more complicated. In 1994, Steinberg published Crossing Paths, one of the few extensive accounts of how parents weather the transition of their firstborns into puberty, based on a longitudinal study he conducted of more than 200 families. Forty percent of his sample suffered a decline in mental health once their first child entered adolescence. Respondents reported feelings of rejection and low self-worth; a decline in their sex lives; increases in physical symptoms of distress.

Thus, the invention of childhood has caused negative consequences for parents and their children. Parents experience a decline in mental health and children indulge in risk-taking like making (Middle School) Girls Gone Wild YouTube videos.

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