Gabor Maté

“The psychoanalyst Erik H. Erikson devoted a chapter in his Pulitzer Prize—winning book, Childhood and Society, to his reflections on the American identity. “This dynamic country,” he wrote, “subjects its inhabitants to more extreme contrasts and abrupt changes during a generation than is normally
the case with other great nations.”

Such trends have only accelerated since Erikson made that observation in 1950. The effects of rapid social and economic shifts on the parenting environment are too well known to need detailing here. The erosion of community, the breakdown of the extended family, the pressures on marriage relationships, the harried lives of nuclear families still intact and the growing sense of insecurity even in the midst of relative wealth have all combined to create an emotional milieu in which calm, attuned parenting is becoming alarmingly difficult.

The result being successive generations of children in alienation, drug use and violence — what Robert Bly has astutely described as “the rage of the unparented.” Bly notes in The Sibling Society that “in 1935 the average working man had forty hours a week free, including Saturday. By 1990, it was down to seventeen hours. The twenty-three lost hours of free time a week since 1935 are the very hours in which the father could be a nurturing father, and find some center in himself, and the very hours in which the mother could feel she actually has a husband.”

These patterns characterize not only the earlyyears of parenting, but entire childhoods. “Family meals, talks, reading together no longer take place,” writes Bly. “What the young need — stability, presence, attention, advice, good psychic food, unpolluted stories — is exactly what the sibling society won’t give them.”


Gabor Maté, Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do About It
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Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do About It Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do About It by Gabor Maté
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