A Book Review: Hurt 2.0 Inside the World of Today’s Teenager – Baker Academic, 2004 Dr. Chap Clark

Chap Clark has dedicated his life to working with young people and had three teenagers of his own when he embarked on the task of understanding this age group. He thought he was well prepared, but one of his sons told him that no adult “gets” teenagers. Centerpiece to a team compiling research on the topic, Clark substituted for several months in a California high school that had a diverse demographic and performed well academically.

As a part of Part I – The Changing Adolescent World, he reports that while at the turn of the 20th Century people were classified as either children or adults, within 50 years adolescence became an in between stage. Now social scientists talk about early, mid and late adolescents. Throughout Clark’s time with these mid-adolescents, many adults made comments not recognizing the changes that have taken place. Clark’s premise is that teenagers are indeed different from those of the mid-20th century. Further, he presents that the transition from child to adult took about three years in the 1950s and now it takes up to 15 years. Freedoms once saved for late adolescence are now given to mid-adolescents. dr. Clark’s scope lies primarily in understanding who these people are, with only some suggestions for resolution.

Chap believes that the defining issue for contemporary adolescents is abandonment. This study has convinced him that there is a far greater chasm between youth and adults than he and most adults have ever realized. David Elkin’s The Hurried Child describes how often parents about book their children, often in age-inappropriate activities. In A Tribe Apart, Patricia Hersch reflects on how the teens of the 90’s were the most isolated and unsupervised to date. As a result of this abandonment, they form their own “family” with their peers. Around the age of fifteen abstract thought begins to develop and teens begin to realize that they need to find their spot in the adult world. If they don’t have a strong connection with a parent or other significant adult they gravitate toward their peers. Often these bonds are stronger than with their family. Finding a balance in their loyalty is a challenge. Rather than trying on different selves, Clark believes that teens operate primarily in this world “beneath.” Chap maintains that teens do not trust adults with their inner most life. Teens, according to Clark, don’t believe that adults genuinely care about them.

In part 2 – the landscape of the world beneath Clark explores the following areas of the teen’s life: peers, school, family, sports, sex, busyness and stress, ethics and morality, partying, gaming and social networking, and kids at the margins (any margin – the vulnerable and the privileged). In this last section, the author talks about the three aspects of individuation: identity, autonomy and belonging. Identity reflects how we see ourselves; autonomy includes taking responsibility and making wise decisions; belonging reminds us that we are designed to be a part of a group – not isolated. Part 2 takes up half of the book and deserves more space in this review than I can give it. In the section on school, Chap reports that cheating is considered the norm. Also, I do want to say that Clark recognizes the importance of the family in the lives of teens.

Finally in part 3 – Where do we go from here? Clark offers some suggestions. When there was a shift from a “nurturing” focus to an institutional focus, much was lost. So returning to more nurturing is one step. As one teacher concluded – she needed to listen more. Also teens need a stable and secure presence as well as authentic, intimate relationships with adults. In the end, Clark offers five strategies to turn the tide of systemic abandonment:

1. Train those who work with youth to understand today’s teens.

2. Those working with youth must work together.

3. Those who work with youth must understand them and provide boundaries.

4. Parents must learn about their teens and need to be encouraged in their parenting.

5. Communities must be sure teens have a few significant adults advocating for the teens.

Currently, Clark is involved with an organization- http://www.Parenteen.org that is active in working out Clark’s suggestions presented in this and his other books.

As I continue to explore this topic, I have the following concerns:

1. While Clark’s stated scope of the book is observing the teen today and to begin the conversation of what to do about it, I wonder if more consideration should be placed on the causes to facilitate the solution.

2. While Clark includes the family and church, in this book, they seem to be relative minor participants in the solutions presented.

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