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The Postmodern Life: A Psychological Perspective

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In the United States, concerns have been expressed about children raised in impoverished single­ parent households by young mothers who are still children themselves. There also are problems with post-modem children of middle-class families as permeable families “hurry” their children to take on the physical, social, and psychological trappings of adulthood before they are prepared to deal with them. Permeable families tend to thrust children and teenagers forward to deal with realities of the outside world at ever-earlier ages, perceiving them as competent to deal with the steady diet of overt violence, sexuality, substance abuse, and environmental degradation that they view on television.

Such abuses in the United States and Europe often translate into worse abuses in poor neighborhoods of large third world cities, where unsupervised children of all ages are lured, together with adults, into watching sexually explicit “adult videos”. Countries such as the United States, as well as places in the developing world that have departed most widely from institutional family values, appear to be particularly vulnerable to such abuses in the post-modem era

Although parents remain very concerned about their children in the postmodern world, perceptions of parenting have changed. In the modem era, parenting was intuitive and child­ health professionals guided parents by teaching them the general norms of development. The focus of parent education was development of the whole child. In contrast, parenting in the post­ modern world is perceived as a learned technique with specific strategies for dealing with particular issues. The target has shifted from the whole child to developing the child’s positive sense of self-esteem. In the modern era, parents made the effort to fit advice to the particular needs of the child; post-modern techniques may be easier for parents—but the child may be deprived of customized treatment. Moreover, the focus on the whole child should not be lost.

Certainly, the nuclear family was not perfect. The revolution that led to post-modern life corrected old imbalances in society through perseverance of parental and gender role distinctions. Yet these radical social changes may have created new imbalances by increasing demands on children and adolescents as illustrated in the following tables.

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