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Teen 2.0: Saving our children and families from the torment of adolescence

March 26, 2011

The mammoth new book by former editor and chief of Psychology Today Dr. Robert Epstein adds a fascinating new chapter to the ongoing “debate” about the reality of adolescence. The book is based on two main thesis ideas, the first is that adulthood is based on “competencies” even to the point of asking “How adult are you”?. This idea is even measured by the Epstein-Dumas test of adulthood presented with scoring key as Appendix #1. The second thesis is that age is a totally arbitrary measuring of responsibility which results in Epstein arguing for the dissolution of the juvenile justice system, compulsory education, the ability to marry, work and be free of parental control at any age. These arguments are set in the context of an exploration of the history of adolescence as an idea, the development of child labor laws, and countless examples of adolescence who demonstrate amazing competencies even at a young age. The historical elements and research components are well documented but my major critique is that many of the examples are drawn from previous cultural contexts where 18 was almost middle age in terms of life span, and like it or not in an informational economy and digital focused culture there have been established certain tasks of adolescence involving identity, value identification, as well as cognitive development that are never addressed adequately enough to warrant the wide spread rejection of the idea of adolescence as a whole. It is the job of parents and those of us who work with adolescent students to every day (starting at birth) move them through the transitional period of adolecsence toward adulthood or to use Epstein’s term “awaken the inner adult in every teen”. The positive response reflected in the glowing reviews include such diverse names as Newt Gingrich, Deepak Chopra, and Joyce Brothers. This is a book worth reading but not uncritically to understand the current discussion on the future of even the concept of adolescence in this culture.

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