Saturday, September 20, 2003


Despite increases in economic well-being and important reductions in crime and teen pregnancy, one out of every four teenagers is at "serious risk" of not achieving productive adulthood. Twenty percent of American youth have seriously thought about suicide in the past year. U.S. children, as a group, are reporting more anxiety than did children who were psychiatric patients in the 1950s. One out of three teens is sexually active. Almost half of teens have used an illegal drug.

Weaker parenting, the absence of strong moral and spiritual connections, and the decline of marriage are prominent causes. But in addition, these hard scientists, psychologists, clinicians and social scientists point out, adults need to get serious about the question of gender:

"The need to attach social significance and meaning to gender appears to be a human universal," they conclude, and one that "deeply influences well-being." Yet adults still stuck in the '70s sex role battles have for the most part declined to take on the responsibility of helping our children develop a powerful pro-social meaning for masculinity and femininity.

The result was supposed to be a feminist paradise of androgyny. But because some sex differences are hard-wired, and because the need to figure out what it means to be a man or a woman (and not just a human being) appears similarly intractable, the result of our society's indifference to the deep meanings of sexuality is social chaos -- the kind of social chaos that can occur only when adults abandon adult responsibilities and leave children to create social meanings on their own

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