Adolescents, the aborted rebellion

A physiological stage

Adolescent rebellion is a systematic stage because it is physiological. Hormonal remodeling causes a surge in individuation. The delimitation between the world and oneself is unclear in childhood, with puberty bringing a split. The adolescent is pushed to choose and express a personal identity. The easiest thing is to mimic those of their age group. The result is therefore easier to predict than we imagine, because rebellion involves the rejection of most forms of authority but will nevertheless take a precise form anchored in the generation concerned.

Classically the rebellion takes place against the parents, the closest and most obvious authoritarian symbols. But today parents have given up most of their powers. Education is extremely free and respectful of the child’s wishes. The only constraints imposed are those aimed at their own safety. The parents have abandoned any idea of a professional or romantic orientation for their child. She will do what she wants. She will stay at home as much as she wants.

Without a target, the bow is drawn soft

This relinquishment of responsibility offers some advantages to parents: more time for themselves, less stress and guilt. The evolution of parents also corresponds to a privileged personal achievement at the expense of family tasks, and a laziness when professional constraints are too exhausting.

By getting rid of their power, the parents removed from the teenager the obvious target that they represented for her rebellion. What can she choose now? She has to look for an authority that is truly caricatured enough to get angry. Professors ? They had to adapt to the generation of child kings and also abandoned the leadership of the class, which had become a micro-anarchy. The major social and global problems? It is interesting to rebel against the inertia of systems but the adversary is vague, elusive, and activism remains a mainly virtual activity, groupist rather than individualizing.

Bouncing on a deflated self

Remains yourself, your own body. Teenagers rebel against their own bodies if nothing else. They reject their biological sex, their stifling good health, praised by adults. They lose weight beyond reason, or stuff themselves, want to change gender, self-mutilate, play potentially lethal games. Rebellion against the endless and programmed life that lies ahead, a terribly authoritarian destiny.

In a world where the child is king very early, plenipotentiary of her inner world, adolescent rebellion can only concern herself, only her own existence as she herself participated in programming. We rebel against what we are when no one forced us to be that way. How do you bounce back on such a deflated ball to get starting in life?

So, have parents really given their children a gift by giving up their power, when they know the need for a target for adolescent rebellion is inevitable? Fatalism replaced by laziness, indifference and spinelessness?


3 thoughts on “Adolescents, the aborted rebellion”

  1. All good points. What was once called angst is now much more. Additionally, genius emerges earlier. Do was suppose genius in children is a function of evolution? More later, perhaps. I am pressed for time now. Enjoyed this post.

  2. There has been increasing abrogation of parental responsibility for several decades, aided and abetted by popular culture and the rights movement, and, no, I am not talking about race, color and national origin. My parents took control, while others of their generation, and later, gave in to fads, trends and popular culture. As you suggest, spineless. Their focus, insight and intention morphed into acquiescence. On reflection, I am glad mine were iron-assed about raising children. You might talk with a few more like me…but few of them would be under fifty years of age, I think. Paradigm shift, excused by the notion of progress. Check out Hossenfelder’s book. File that under practical pragmatism. James and Rorty must be smiling.
    Bon soir mon ami..


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