Sunday, January 30, 2011

Why the Kids Aren't Alright

Now that we know that the kids are not alright, we want to know why.

How did it happen that college freshmen rate their mental health so poorly? Why, in particular, are college girls so likely to be depressed and demoralized?

What happened to all of those lessons in heightened self-esteem?

Kristina Dell attempted to explain it in the Daily Beast. Link here.

Dell she went out and interviewed experts to discover why so many college girls where having so much trouble holding it together.

Some of the explanations are almost comical: boys play stress reducing video games while girls are out socializing and volunteering.

In which planet do video games make you less depressed than socializing? Why didn’t they say that boys are less stressed because they watch more porn?

Dell also discovered that psychologists and counselors agree that girls are more easily wounded than boys, that they are more sensitive to slights, and that they take everything more personally and seriously.

I am not going to object to this as a description of young women who are suffering depression or who are feeling demoralized. It describes how it feels to be thin-skinned and in despair.

But, it does not explain anything; it simply describes an experience.

If we want to understand why, we need to look elsewhere.

Writing in the New York Times, John Tierney offered more of an explanation. In his words: “But, my sense is that most of the students at this school spend enormous amounts of time watching television, checking out Facebook, and otherwise engaging in totally unproductive activity. They certainly don't read anything!  In fact, I would say that the number one problem in contemporary American education is that students do not read enough.  Their reading comprehension is horrible.  Their vocabularies are impoverished.  They cannot talk about anything outside their own closed little worlds.”

That’s a better idea: young people are depressed because they are addicted to unproductive activities. They do not read books and do not know how to converse with their friends.

Be truthful, that would make you depressed too, wouldn’t it?

Of course, wasted time and energy are really a sign of poor character. These young people are suffering because they have no self-discipline.

This suggests that their parents have not taught them good ethical principles in them.

Tierney offers an interesting coda in his column, one that will, I am sure, brighten up your day: “But I have the uncomfortable feeling that this larger problem -- the waste of time on television and Facebook and video games, and, worst of all, the absence of any reading life -- is endemic among young people today.   If so, we're in big trouble.  They don't know anything and, worse yet, they seem uninterested in anything.

“What to do about this? The Tiger Moms of the world may, or may not, have the right approach.  But the rest of us haven't exactly figured it out, either.”

For other explanations of this psychological phenomenon, let’s look at the simple fact that most colleges and universities are majority female these days.

The experts applaud this, but throw up their arms in wonderment at the fact that this brave new gyno-centric world has not produced happier and healthier young women.

They ignore the fact, noted by many, that this disparity actually works to the detriment of girls… especially in the dating marketplace.

Yes, I know, college students do not date any more; they just get drunk and hook up.

But still, in a world where women outnumber men, the marketplace will grant men power over women.

If men are scarce and women are overabundant, each woman will have to compromise more often than she might like if she wants to receive male attention or to sustain male romantic interest.

The more women there are the more difficult it is for any individual woman to maintain her power in a dating or relationship.

Thus, the best laid feminist plans seem to have disempowered young women in the dating market. Who knew?

The moral of this story tells us that it is a bad idea to manipulate markets in order to produce specific outcomes.

The other part of the problem is something that some women recommend as part of the solution.

A group of women who call themselves sex-positive feminists recommend hooking up as a solution to emotional despair. After all, if you feel that you have low self-respect, why not act as though you do not respect yourself? That makes a lot of therapeutic sense.

I have opined on this topic before (link here); I believe that sex-positive feminists ought really to be called women-negative feminists.

Their advice, as every woman I know has told me, is detrimental to the emotional well-being of women. For that reason, I have been at pains to recommend that young women ignore it.

Beware of zealots who claim to be your friends. They are far too attached to their own ideas to be friends with any real human being.

The surveys tell us that young women need confidence boosters; they need to regain their pride and self-respect. The sex-positive feminists have told them how not to do it.

Recently I was reading an interesting article by Amelia McDonald-Parry, editor of a website called The Frisky. Link here. Via HookingUpSmart.

McDonald-Parry is apparently a graduate of the Jaclyn Friedman School of Heartbreak Repair. After her fiance broke off their engagement and their relationship, she decided to restore her wounded pride by drinking a lot and sleeping around.

When Jaclyn Friedman did the same thing--- thought perhaps with less alcohol-- she declared that she was getting in touch with her inner sluthood, which she had apparently been oppressing because the  patriarchy that is terrified of promiscuous women.

Anyway, Amelia McDonald-Perry seems to have missed my posts on Friedman, or else she decided that I was wrong. She decided to find out for herself.

She describes her experience, thusly: “ In the last six months, I have dated up a storm. I’ve slept around and, for the most part, had a good time. Magically, drinking on dates has given me the confidence I lack in my daily life. It gives me liquid courage, but more importantly, it gives me liquid confidence. It relaxes me, it makes my fears of rejection and abandonment melt away, it makes me feel like the kind of woman that would never happen to again.”

She is saying that drinking gave her back her confidence; it gave her “liquid courage.” In fact, she is self-medicating her depression. It gives her a boost in false pride, nothing more....

And McDonald-Parry also seems to have tried to add feelings of being in control by engaging in random, anonymous hookups.

She actually claims that such sex is a great ego boost:  “Sex takes that up about 10 notches. In bed with someone, I feel like a f**king goddess. I feel hot, smart, funny, sexy, beautiful, all of it. I feel in control. Control is what I have been grasping for ever since I was blindsided by my fiance calling things off. And I don’t feel like I’m lacking anything. In bed with someone, I feel whole.”

I can't speak for women here, but I do know something about men. I can share with all of you the fact that for a man you just men to go home with you and to have sex with you... you do not really have to be a goddess.

Anyway, McDonald-Parry describes this as a thoroughly therapeutic experience. In much the same way that most controlled substances make you feel good. You would not be tempted to become addicted to them if that were not the case.

The problem is the aftershocks. Somehow or other McDonald-Parry always seemed to want more than just another hookup. And when she did not get what she wanted, she reacted badly: “After bawling my eyes out last night after the pattern repeated itself once again, I’ve finally come to a conclusion. I have to take ownership of my feelings and behavior. It’s not enough to acknowledge that I’m an extreme emotions junkie. I need to figure out and manage why those extreme emotions come up. I need to feel confident completely in who I am without a drink in my hand or a man in my bed. I need to really see and believe, 24/7, that I am a whole person who is lacking nothing, rather than depending on a man or a buzz to give me that validation.”

Does this tell us why the kids are not alright? Does it tell us at least why the girls are not alright?

It does tell us that the path to cure involves going cold turkey on alcohol and hookups. That is McDonald--Parry's solution, and it is vastly superior to Jaclyn Friedman's.

Were she to ask my advice-- she didn’t-- I would tell her that if her goal is marriage, then she would have done better not to regale us all with her adventures in the land of the hookups.


Anonymous said...

TO: Dr. Schneiderman
RE: The 'Kidz' Gotz Problems & Why

Excellent articles: this and the previous.

I didn't speak in earlier one as I was working on a project. However, I will mention here that Fort Hood had 22 suicides last year. A dramatic increase. And, as I've mentioned elsewhere, I put the blame on the vaunted American public education system which has REFUSED to teach the children-students that LIFE IS TOUGH! The 'high self-esteem' inculcated in them doesn't hold up well in a real world.

Image is NOTHING where the tread meets the pavement...with all it's ruts and pot-holes.

I was particularly impressed with the arguments about a lack of:

[1] Self-discipline.
[2] Constructive activities.

In the first item, it's hard to have self-discipline when you were not disciplined by your parents while growing up. Case in point, the parent can be imprisoned for spanking their child.

In the second item, video-games could well play a role in that. As opposed to building something useful and fun like {HORROR!} a tree fort and tire swing. Or playing tackle football in an open field.

Learning to cook well is another creative and constructive activity. [NOTE: I didn't bother to learn such until after going through that 'spa' the Army operates. AFTER THAT, I developed an abiding LOVE of food.]

More to follow....

Anonymous said...

RE: About the Women

I think you've nailed it with the arguments about the problems of depressed, young women. The issues of competition for the attentions of men combined with the lack of honest-to-God REAL self-esteem developed through honest-to-God achievement and personal self-discipline can be quite daunting.

The question becomes HOW does one overcome such?

Hopefully, that will be a follow-on article in this series: How to Get the Kids Alright.


[You know you were a good parent if your grand-kids turn out alright.]

P.S. But if they don't, is it too late for corrective action?

Anonymous said...

TO: Dr. Schneiderman
RE: About Those 'Games'

Whereas silly, i.e., unrealistic, video games, e.g., Tetris, Warcraft, etc., are a HUGE waste of time, I can't say that ALL such activities are worthless.

The former are games that I think of as....

Games for killing time, for those who think it better off dead.

The ones that simulate the REAL WORLD can be VERY useful.

Case in point, accurate military simulations are excellent for teaching young wannabe Pattons what to expect and how to deal with it.

Another example, a simulation from the '80s, Life & Death put the player in the position of a newly assigned abdominal surgeon. I learned a LOT about what it was like to perform an appendectomy. Including the necessity to anesthetize the patient before applying the scalpel.

The more contemporaneous Civilization IV—Not V—is an excellent program to learn how we got to where we are today, as a civilization. As well as why it is important to continue developing newer and better technologies. Not to forget the necessity of balancing food, culture, law and order, etc., etc., etc.


[Games lubricate the body and the mind. -- Benjamin Franklin]

David Foster said...

I don't think it's natural or psychologically healthy for most people to spend 16 or 20 years being basically useless. When you're a student, you're not doing anything of value to someone ELSE in the same sense that you are if you're fixing a car or cooking a meal or designing a's all about YOU and your "potential", rather than your performance.

And an increasing % of students don't really know why they are there, other than that someone told them they HAD to be if they don't want to be failures in life. Kind of like draftees, in peacetime, in an incompetently-led army.

Anonymous said...

On the topic of useful video games, my oldest son has learned via Roller-coaster Tycoon the valuable lesson (apparently missed by most of America) that loans can be good ways of helping grow your business, but can destroy you if you're not careful.

Apparently, designing a roller-coaster where people throw up, or is safely boring, results in: not enough people coming to your roller-coaster, you can't pay off your loan, and you lose the game.

Anonymous said...

TO: Anonymous
RE: 'Game' Utility

I spent HOURS playing contemporary tactical simulations. Indeed, while attending the Infantry Officers Advanced Course (IOAC) at Benning School for Boys, a group of us would get together for one weekend a month—during a six-month course—to hold a knock-down, drag-out donneybrook over Mech War II: Red Star/White Star. [NOTE: Ten to Twenty would show up. We'd pull marbles from a hat: red Sovs, white US and black referees.] Beer, pizza and cigars were the board of fare.

Two days of proving/disproving tactical theory.

What was the point? The 'benefit'?

Several years later, as an infantry company commander in a mech-infantry battalion, I was the only company commander that didn't have his fourth-point-of-contact reamed out by the battalion commander during his let's-see-what-kind-of-organization-I've-come-into field exercise. All the others, I could visualize the radio-net melting down from the message traffic on how dissatisfied he, and his S3, were about their conduct of the operation.

My turn in the 'barrel'? Nothing but standard command-and-control traffic regarding phase-lines and control points.

Afterwards the bat-rastard congratulated me on my understanding of weapon systems capabilities/limitation and maneuver control.

I owe it all to 'playing games'. Realistic ones.

The same is true in a number of other venues.


[You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else. -- Albert Einstein ]

P.S. During one force-on-force engagement, I pitted two of my company's Anti-Tank equipped APCs, against TEN tanks and in an running battle—using Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement Systems (MILES)—we killed ALL TEN TANKS with the lose of only ONE MAN.

Anonymous said...

TO: Dr. Schneiderman
RE: [OT-But Only Here] Does THIS....

....qualify as a manifestation of my personal 'Unique-ness'?


P.S. Such tales of 'glory' are best enjoyed over fine scotch and tobacco, with others who can tell such tales themselves or youngsters who wish to learn from others' experiences.....don't you think?

Books be damned!