Skip to comments.Latchkey Nation:Home Alone in America
Posted on 11/14/2004 10:22:35 AM PST by Founding Father
Latchkey nation: Home alone in America
Why is the mental health of America's children declining so precipitously? Isn't it obvious?
Sunday, November 14, 2004
BY MARY EBERSTADT
If there is one subject on which doctors and teachers and other experts involved with children would agree, it's this: Over the past generation, the number of American kids diagnosed with mental disorders has exploded.
In January 2001, the Surgeon General issued a report declaring that the United States faces nothing less than "a public crisis in mental care for children and adolescents." Similarly, the National Mental Health Association estimates that one in five American children has a diagnosable mental, emotional or behavioral disorder.
This new reality is something many readers will recognize from personal experience. Diagnoses of Attention Deficit Disorder, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, conduct disorder, bipolar disorder, autism and depression have become all too familiar. School districts and college campuses across the country have been struggling with the accommodations required for these children. Millions of American kids are taking mind-altering prescription drugs; Ritalin production alone increased 700 percent between 1980 and 1990, and the number of children taking all manner of psychiatric drugs tripled from 1987 to 1996, according to one landmark survey of 900,000 kids.
(Excerpt) Read more at nj.com ...
Beginning about a decade ago, diagnostic criteria -- in particular, those of the commonly consulted Diagnostic and Statistics Manual IV (DSM-IV) -- changed considerably. Not only have new disorders been added to the list of problems, but existing disorders have been redefined with broader criteria, meaning that more children are now considered disordered and diseased.
And this one, too:
It is, instead, a dynamic in which adults who are around children less and less find their behavior more and more problematic and in need of alteration. This dynamic works the other way, too: Children who are around parents and other family members less and less feel and behave worse and worse.
Most of us already new this. When my daughter was pregnant, I preached, stay home with your twins. do not leave your children to be raised in their formative years by a stranger that may have weird ideas or mental makeup.
actually most of us already KNEW this.
Now we are raising a generation of psycho drugged children - and what will be the result when they are fully grown?
I shudder to think.
I ws a latchkey kid in the late thirties and forties,along with a younger brother. There was no term for us then,we just had a father who died young.
We turned out okay!
I was a latch-key kid and survived!
It would be nice if every woman that chose to stay home with her young children was able to. But stay-at-home moms is not the issue. The true feminist perspective is choice with both roles ( career, job and family) deserving of respect.
Both my parents had to work. I was left alone from when I got home from to school till about 6pm. No day care, no special programs. I was told what to do and not do during that time. A snack was an apple or orange. When my parents got home we all ate dinner together (take out was rare). I did homework, my parents read or my dad played the piano to relax; mom knitted sometimes. We watched an hour or so of tv together. It was unheard of going out on a school night. There was plenty of talking and interaction time with my parents. The weekends were chores (another marvelous family bonding experience!) and family get togethers were priority.
I will agree that the consumerism driven society today puts "things" ahead of family. And lots of parents don't want to discipline, its just too much of a hassle.
That's very true. Although there are very real cases of ADD, ADHD, etc., with the new definitions nearly every pre-teen boy would fit the new diagnostic guidelines. lol A lot of the behaviour they want to change is nothing more than a kid being a kid. (I'm not talking about behaviour exhibited because of a lack of discipline, just ordinary child behaviour.) We can't keep expecting children to act and react like miniature adults, and "diagnosing" them with some disorder when they don't.
They are not "alone"...they have the internet where they reach out to strangers to fulfill their needs and teach them about asundry things. They have their "live journals" where they talk about sex, suicide, politics and trash each other over small things. They have email and phone networks that spread rumors like wild fires. The underground digital age is teaching our children and it's not pretty.
Drug using parents (sorry Libertarians, but it's the truth)...
Sky-rocketing number of legal and illegal immigrants...
Mothers who refuse to stay home and BE mothers (sorry, feminists)...
Did I need to commission a government study to figure all this out?
NO, I used something much better and infinitely cheaper!
It's called COMMON SENSE!
We should all buy some and use it OFTEN!
Maybe someday we'll have a discussion on the root causes:unconstitutional programs resulting in greatly higher taxes, causing both parents to work to make ends meet
Excellent point. It is far more difficult for young couples to keep mom at home during the pre-school period than it was 30 or 40 years ago. Taxes, insurance, increased debt, and real estate speculation have a LOT to do with it.
I too was a latchkey kid in the early 60's when my parents divorced, my dad skipped town, and my mom went to work to support her 5 kids. I was 10 years old, taking care of my 8 and 6 year siblings after school, plus cleaning the house, and cooking easy meals. Did I develop some bipolar mind disorder? Hardly, I went on to graduate with honors from high school and college and have a work ethic that few people can hope to achieve.
Parents need to stop blaming their kid's problems on everything except where it truly lies.....themselves (the parents). They're all too quick to resort to medicine or God forbid...it's the school's fault. Wake up and smell the coffee parents, it's YOUR fault your kid is screwed up. Time to take some responsibility for how your children turned out and not blame it on everything else in the world to make yourself feel better at what a lousy parent you are. Maybe if parents would act like parents and not their kid's best friends and buddy, we wouldn't have half the problems that we do in our schools today.
parents who appear to not really want their kids- I see children treated as an annoyance- a distraction from what the parents would rather be doing. I see it in high and low income families- well-educated and not.
The child is seen as some kind of status symbol: we have the Ivy League education, the law degree, the McMansion, the Lexus - now we need to get ourselves a child to make the picture complete. Of course, a child is neither programmable nor easily turned off when the parents are tired of him, so hence the frazzled and distracted behavior; the rude comments to mothers blessed with 4-5 kids ("HOW can you STAND it - I'm going crazy with one," yadda yadda); the push for full-time day care at two months postpartum.
sadly common sense is not that common.
This is just another bash family articles to counter the notion that Marriage is to raise children. (as opposed to the homosexual notion that marriage is about orgasm)
The problem with the "uninvolved" is that until recently (and still in some states), generous welfare programs paid women to crank out babies w/o having to work. The kids were basically a ticket to a welfare lifestyle. That mentality does not change overnight, even with federal welfare reform. You get more of what you subsidize.
Hmm? I didn't see this as an anti-family article at all. It got to the nugget pretty quick - kids are experiencing psychological problems because they spend too much time separated from their parents (and indirectly, from their siblings.)
It's not an "either/or" thing - marriage is about children *and* about orgasms; some in more proportion than others, depending on your stage in life...
I suspect we have always been messed up but didn't have "experts" to diagnosis and place blame and media to sensationalize.
I suspect we have always been messed up but didn't have "experts" to diagnosis and place blame and media to sensationalize.
I think that one problem is that many parents today don't really want children -- they want objects of gratification, something that exists only to make the parents happy, something with no more intrinsic value than a Monopoly board game. They ignore their kids except when they're in the mood to do fun things with them, leaving the actual work of childrearing to third parties such as nannies, daycare workers, teachers, coaches, etc. Inevitably, after the novelty wears off, the parents lose what little interest they ever had in their children.
So many parents conveniently think that their children don't need attention and guidance from both parents, and yet they are baffled when their children misbehave, fail and in the end, ignore their parents (except, perhaps, when they want something).
Excellent post and spot on. I particularly like the point you made about parents being parents and not their kids' friends. The problem is, that in this egalitarian age, many parents don't believe that they have the right to tell their children what to do. So they try to manipulate their children into behaving. And, of course, when children are allowed to run amuck at home they naturally think that they can run amuck at school and everywhere else.
Some yes, separation from their parents. Some yea, are not wanted, but we have a serious agenda in acadamis today, and it really needs to stop. My son was raised without his father, but he is a well adjusted, stable adult. It's the quality of the time, not the quantity.
It doesn't hurt that the whole game is influenced by money at all levels.
A mother who actually parented" and was not afraid to use a little discipline along with teaching the same "moral values" that are bing denigrated by the left probably had something to do with you and your siblings turning out okay.
Yes,she parented, and we had very little. She also never had a boyfriend and devoted herself to our care.
When I got married and had kids myself I looked back in wonder at what she did.
You must not be familiar with Eberstadt's work. The article is nothing of the kind.
Yeah they get pumped with high carb free breakfasts, have limited recesses and then drugged to calm down . When they get home they have a bunch of homework. Then the experts scratch their heads about obesity problems.
Reading each of your accounts I was struck by the fact that you all spoke of your family's in positive ways. Your parents didn't leave you home alone because they wanted to buy a boat or so that your mom could be more fulfilled or because caring for the kid(s) was unimportant or because your mom decided that having a dad around wasn't important. And, I think that's the difference. If I were to speak about being a latchkey kid, my account wouldn't be positive. My parents' reasoning was flawed and selfish -- in many ways they were ahead of their time.
The increase in latchkey kids are just another symptom of a culture gone astray. Have uninvolved parents is going to have negative effects on children. Absent, uninvolved parents have increased negative effects.
I'd like to see a study of the reasons given by parents for their kids being left alone. I'm generally not one to wager, but I'd bet that if the study were correctly done, it could be easily shown that most latchkey kids are home alone because their parents simply have higher priorities.
Sounds like she did a lot the same thing I did. I worked second shift, so I could be home with my son, and the time away was mostly sleep time. Even read to him on cassette tapes so he could still have that even when I wasn't home. I too, delayed my own personal life until he was older.
I'm hopeful that a lot of the tax reforms put forth by President Bush will enable more families to have Mom stay home. I stay home with our son but it is so hard financialy. We keep on going, though. More tax breaks would definitely make things easier.
What unconstitutional programs are you talking about?
If a program is not mandated by the constitution specifically, that doesn't meanit is 'unconstitutional.' It may be 'extra-constitutional.' That is to say takes on an elective, but certainly not outlawed, function.
So what do you mean?
Thanks for your nice response.
I happen to live in an affluent town and most of the parents work,using nannies,day-care,afterschool care,and camp to take care of the kids.Some of these little ones are my own grandchildren,but I stay out of it.
I don't get it! I stayed home with my kids and am glad I did,especially after I realized how hard it must have been for my mother.
I was a latch-key kid nearly 40 years ago and so was my husband. Kids today are not as self-sufficient, imo.
Good for you----I admire women like you and my mother,I had it easy.
You touched on the constant disagreement I have with my sister. She works full-time, as does her husband so that she can have vacations, two new cars, and so her kids "won't have to want for anything." She thinks my husband and I are foolish to risk financial insecurity "just so I can stay home and bake cookies." It leaves me at such a loss when talking to her that she can't see the real reason we do what we do - it's also hard to explain to her exactly why I am home with the baby without insulting her choice, I guess.
We aren't that close, needless to say. And for the record, my mom stayed home with us and baked cookies. I don't remember much about what we got for Christmas, Birthdays, or other gifts. I just remember Mom being there in the afternoon so she could read to me. I want the same for our son. :-)
Please allow me to thank you on behalf of your son. I chose to do the same for my boys. Speaking of which, I think it's time we do some cooking baking.
I have to diagree. What has happened is a couple things. First, school districts receive financial aid based upon the number of "special needs" kids. The more kids with special needs, the more money. So the criteria for these disorders have expanded to include more kids.
I remember that my daughter had a tough time adjusting to fourth grade. She and her teacher had very different personalities. There were a couple times my daughter cried in class. The principal didn't know what to make of it. So she suggested that perhaps the child -- who was a straight A student -- should be placed on Ritalin. I ignored the advice; my daughter got through fourth grade; and today she is an honors student in high school.
So the second thing that has happened is that teachers -- who are so overwhelemed with discipline problems (God forbid that a child be punished), and multitudinous other problems, have no time for anything outside narrowing limits. Ritalin has become the answer.
I don't doubt there are some children who are medically in need of these kinds of drugs, but it is far fewer than the number of children who are actually taking the drugs.
I went to a relatively small school and the only kids that ended up being problem children were the ones that were over indulged by their parents.
Never underestimate the disuasive value of the fear of an ass kicking.
That being said, turn off the MTV, it is the absolute worst thing for kids to be exposed to.
Having been on the receiving end of many an ass kicking as a kid, I have to concur.
My kids know better when they get "The Look". Two ass kicking (one each) were enough to stop the madness.
I would suggest that Ms. Eberstadt read "Don't You Know There's a War On?" by Richard Lingeman.
The book describes "Homefront USA" during WWII. Proportionally, there were many more "latchkey" (the term was first used during the war) kids then than now. The overwhelming majority of them turned out just fine.
Oh. They weren't victims in those day.
Fathers who refuse to marry and settle down
Fathers who do marry, but refuse to be a responsible role-model
Parents who refuse to act like parents by refusing to give their kids boundaries
Parents who put their own pleasures before the needs of the family
Too often in this forum, mothers take the brunt. Everyone time I meet a wrong-headed mom, I feel as though she needs a good shaking. The fact is there are many fathers out there who should make good FRdads angered, too.
Your premise is completely incorrect. The constitution is a contract between states to cede certain enumerated powers to a central government. Any powers not expressly ceded are reserved to the states. There is no such concept as "extra-constitutional." I suggest you read the constitution and look particularly at the 9th and 10th amendments. What the heck---pay particular attention to the entire document. You are 180 degrees off.