Dr. Coleman was on the Today Show July 6th, talking about parental estrangement. Click here to view the segment.
The notion of a rebellious teen driven by hormones and an undeveloped brain is so much a part of our ongoing cultural narrative that we assume its universality. But, what if this construction of adolescence is more cultural than universal?
In a fascinating new book, Not Under My Roof: Parents, Teens, and the Culture of Sex, University of Massachusetts sociologist Amy Schalet examines this question by asking both American and Dutch parents the question: “Would you ever let your teenager’s boyfriend or girlfriend sleep over?” She finds that while the vast majority of parents here say no way, the vast majority of parents there give a qualified yes.
Oh, those Dutch, you say. With their hashish cafes, their acceptance of prostitution, their non-punitive approach to drug addiction. Of course they’re going to be loose about that. What aren’t they loose about? And yet, as Schalet demonstrates, the Dutch attitude toward the sleepover (like their more tolerant approach to adolescent alcohol use) reveals a very careful and measured approach to parenting.
And that approach reveals fundamental differences in how our two cultures view the construction of the individual and the role of society at large. These differences are especially interesting because there are many ways that the two cultures are quite similar: Like us, the Dutch developed a governmental system based on a liberation from an outside power (Spain, in their case), have powerful middle classes, experienced a sexual revolution in the 1960s, and are proud individualists.