Twenty-two years ago this very day, I was defending my master’s thesis. And it wasn’t even the highlight of the week. It is sometimes hard to believe it now, but once upon a time I was a graduate research assistant at the University of Arkansas in Human Development and Family Studies working under the leadership of Dr. Dennis Papini a psychologist specializing in adolescence and family. Because I had worked with 4-H youth, in homes for disturbed youth and runaway shelters it was a perfect study course to give me an academic basis and expertise to pair with practical skills. I loved working with teenagers and still do. While some people are perfectly happy in a preschool room or with kindergartener, I would much prefer a room full of teenagers. The world has changed a lot in the 22 years since I completed graduate school. I would say the impact of technology is the biggest change. For example, when I went to graduate school, few of us had our own computers. We spent hours in the UA computer lab or in my case, my major professor’s office until all hours of the night working on research. Most research was done in the library and you needed a ton of change for all the copies you had to make. Lots of trees went down in the making of my thesis. I love school and could be a professional student. I love to learn, and I loved the challenging discussions with other students and professors brought about in the graduate school arena. I loved the diversity of thought in my fellow students about a broad range of topics. I loved most of the professors. I loved the camaraderie we built in our little corner of the world. I also met my husband during graduate school. So that was just a little more hot fudge on my sundae!
In the twenty-two years since I graduated with my master’s and in the almost 30 years of working with families, I have seen a lot of changes. As I mentioned most notably I believe is the impact of technology. Some for the good and some not so much. For example the need for people to text continuously even when they are guests in the home of someone they have just met. This recently happened to me and is only one of the many examples I could give. There isn’t room here to discss the benefit of technology for those with disablities so we’ll take that up another day. I have also seen something that hasn’t changed but first for the change. The biggee: many moms can’t be members of my “old-fashioned mom’s club.” I still believe that girl’s lingerie should not hang out nor should their body parts. I don’t mind dressing down for church but out of respect people should dress appropriately in a house of worship. Most eleven-year olds do not need or deserve a cell phone. Ten, eleven and twelve are way too young for girls to be wearing make-up especially eye liner (which is usually crooked) and heavily colored eye shadows. Boys shouldn’t be in girl’s rooms. Girls shouldn’t be in boy’s rooms. Period. That’s a good start. Wanna join?
My own daughter is way too indulged and lives in a diva world that I could have only dreamed of. She will never be able to fathom a telephone party line and dial up phone – though she has seen one because my parent’s still have one in their bedroom. She doesn’t understand that our family ate out twice a year maybe and that was when we stopped at the Frozen Delight on our way home from a ball game. There was not a McDonalds in Searcy back hen. Our entertainment was school sports and my dad’s fast pitch softball. We saw movies one time. There were no VCRs or DVDs or iPods or iTouchs. We rarely had soft drinks in our home. Neither does Rachel but that is a choice we make for health reasons. At my house it was because we didn’t have the money for it. We weren’t deprived. It was just life. Rachel reaps the benefits and detriments of being an only child and of being born to parents who were older and hopefully a little more stable when she came along.
This is what I believe has not changed: the results of my thesis. My thesis (Perceptions of Family Functioning in Sexually Active Adolescent Females Who Are and Are Not Pregnant) revealed nothing new. It revealed what most research related to assessments of family functioning has been revealing forever. It revealed that adolescents who are most likely to have participated in problem behaviors come from families who have very permissive or very stringent parenting styles. Families with no parameters or expectations and families who are very rigid. Skewed a little higher for the most permissive families. The most well adjusted adolescents perceived their families as loving but with expectations, goals, and boundaries. Most well adjusted does not equate to never participates in a problem behavior though. It does equate to employing the ability to cope and work through issues when they do arise. This is what the research says, but I know that this is also what I have observed in a very practical way in my work with youth and families over these many years. So I guess my thesis was worthwhile after all.
These are just a few of sassysoutherngal’s thoughts on this August day.
“Loving discipline encourages a child to respect other people and live as a responsible, constructive citizen.” Dr. James Dobson.