Autonomy is essential for developing what psychologists call an “internal locus of control” — the sense that your choices and actions affect your life, that they matter — and that’s exactly what today’s young people don’t have. Decades of studies have established the connection between an external locus of control in youth and hopelessness, depression, and suicidality, but amid the current crisis there’s been no political constituency for giving kids some slack. Instead, the New York Times suggests dialectical behavior therapy, an effective resource-intensive way to help patients deal with their lack of genuine autonomy (and another set of appointments for them to keep). A therapist for every child might be the best solution we can hope for, but I simply do not believe that any substantial portion of children should require frequent psychological treatment to cope with being alive except in a deeply malformed society. Why is the alternative — increasing the trust that we are willing to put in our country’s youth — so unthinkable?
However, at the end of the day, maybe children are sad because we are all sad with the world in disarray.
American kids feel like their actions don’t matter and the world is fucked anyway; is that so different from the rest of us?
In some ways this reminds me of danah boyd’s work with children and technology documented in It’s Complicated.