OUR ENDANGERED CHILDREN: Growing Up in a Changing World by Vance Packard

OUR ENDANGERED CHILDREN: Growing Up in a Changing World

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Alarms, scraps of evidence, spotty advice--on a subject that merits (and is elsewhere receiving) thoughtful, sustained attention. ""The whole tilt of our society, our institutions, and yes, our family functioning is toward blighting our youngsters and burdening them with pain, anxiety, and discouraging problems,"" Packard begins--in a typical burst of rhetoric and sloppy writing. Then, plucking sentences from the experts, and findings from assorted surveys and studies, he looks loosely at various ""forms of damnation."" Section I, ""Growing Up in Our Anti-child Culture,"" first lists a dozen new kinds of ""adversity"" that children face--like ""Wondering if your parents are going to split--or, if they have, living in a one-parent home,"" ""Seeing a lot of 'no children' signs on apartment houses while on your way to school,"" ""Often coping with parents who are pretty self-absorbed, or uncertain about their role in life."" Next come sketchy elaborations on the ""anti-child"" theme: from runaways to battered children; antinatalism to ""our inhospitable birthing system""; frequent moves to ""high-rise living""; ""schools that upset our children"" to ""heavy TV-viewing."" The delineation of these problems: ""One of the nation's leading authorities on children, Yale psychologist Edward Zigler, has stated that children need adults in their lives""; ""New York child psychiatrist Arthur Kornhaber reports that only 5 percent of US children see a grandparent regularly""; ""In 1982 Amitai Etzioni, director of the Center for Policy Research, estimated that roughly a third of US schools actually inflict psychic harm on pupils."" The book's succeeding sections take up, more purposively but not more thoroughly or judiciously, the problems of working parents, of divorce, and of new family patterns. The most extended attention to a single topic is the nine pages devoted to day-care chains; just about the only solid, semi-original suggestion is for institutionalized after-school care. (""We now accept that for mothers of school-agers to take jobs if they want is a reasonable part of the modern way of life."") Otherwise, there are yesses and nos--sometimes joint custody works, sometimes it doesn't, etc. Weak sensationalism, then--especially by comparison with Marie Winn's Children Without Childhood (p. 451) and, in one major area, Lynda Bird Francke's Growing Up Divorced (p. 499).

Pub Date: Aug. 29th, 1983
Publisher: Little, Brown