Today's Troubled Teens
Problems Seen as Evidence of Stress
It used to be said that children were meant to be seen, not heard. That is hardly the case today. During the past year, the problems of America's children and teen-agers captured headlines in newspapers and magazines across the country. One news magazine ran cover stories on “troubled teen-agers” and “neglected kids.” The Washington Post printed a seven-part series on “Coming of Age in the 80s.” The New York Times ran a six-part series on juvenile crime.
Discussion of youth problems is not exactly uncharted territory. In 1904, G. Stanley Hall wrote a two-volume work entitled Adolescence: Its Psychology and Its Relations to Physiology, Anthropology, Sex, Crime, Religion and Education. Hall described adolescence as the “best key to the nature of crime. It is essentially antisocial, selfishness, refusing to submit to the laws of altruism.” Popular culture, even in supposedly more innocent times, often dealt with troubled youths. Films such as “Angels with Dirty Faces” and “Public Enemy” in the 1930s, “Boys' Town” in the 1940s, and “The Blackboard Jungle,” “Rebel Without a Cause” and “West Side Story” in the 1950s and early 1960s are just a few examples.
While adolescence has always been considered a difficult period, today's teen-agers seem more troubled than those of previous generations. Concern is increasing as the percentage of young Americans involved in aberrant or illicit behavior grows. Statistics on drug and alcohol abuse, sexual activity, juvenile crime and suicide are way up. Not only are more youths doing these things, they are doing them earlier.