Peter Pan parents fail as gatekeepers

    Half of teenage girls, in a survey commissioned by the teenage
    magazine, Bliss, say they cannot cope with the pressures of modern
    life. The study questioned 2,000 girls with an average age of 14.
    One in three of the teenagers interviewed said they were not part
    of a “happy family”; 37 per cent said their parents had separated
    and only 32 per cent said they felt greatly loved. Six out of 10
    admit to feeling insecure about their looks.

    “Cannabis has been downgraded and 24-hour a day drinking is on the
    horizon. It’s a free for all,” says Bliss editor Lisa Smorsarski .

    Acute self-consciousness, angst and the conviction that all adults
    are from another planet determined to spitefully sabotage the
    pleasures of youth have long been a part of teenage life.

    However, the added ingredient that we also have today, in some
    quarters, is a reversion back to the middle ages when, for the
    young, there was no childhood, only a miniature version of the
    adult world.

    Young people have easy access to a grown-up and frightening
    universe through television, DVDs and the internet. In addition,
    the cult of the celebrity continues to give an inflated value to
    the superficial; while magazines and the TV soaps portray personal
    relationships as a wasteland of betrayal, cruelty and infidelity –
    too often reflected in reality at home.

    Popular culture, however, has always gone against the grain of
    family life. In the 1950s, parents fretted about the adverse
    effects of rock ‘n’ roll. What’s perhaps different today is that
    too few adults are willing or able to act as gatekeepers for their
    children, protecting them from the more perverse aspects of the
    outside world. We also appear to have an increase in Peter Pan
    parents, themselves unwilling to grow up, who are consciously
    catapulting their children prematurely into the life of an older
    teenager; little women before their time.

    It’s mothers who buy highly sexualised clothes for the under-10s
    and encourage them to “date” long before their teens. One of the
    long-term consequences of too much, too soon and a huge
    concentration on appearance for young women who lack confidence,
    direction or aspirations is, at times, self-destructive and
    challenging behaviour .

    Two-thirds of the girls interviewed in the survey believed that it
    was easier for their parents when they were young. It probably was
    for a variety of reasons, not least that then children were allowed
    to grow up at their own pace.

    Yvonne Roberts

    More from Community Care

    Comments are closed.