Yin/Yang and American Culture…. Parent /Child Relationship

CHildrenDue to these blurred role expectations for adults and children, grown-ups have become a dying breed in America. According to writer and speaker Robert Bly, one-third of adult Americans are actually half-adults. “We have become a nation of squabbling siblings. We have abandoned our children to day-care centers and our elders to old folks homes, while we, like Peter Pan, simply ‘won’t grow up.’” Bly describes a culture in which Americans tolerate no one above them and show no concern for anyone below them.

John Powers of the Boston Globe has also bemoaned the fact that there are a lot of older people, but not so many mature adults. A father of three children wears a tank top and mesh shorts on a plane trip, and women in their sixties wear sports bras as tops. In fact, I saw a father wearing a T-shirt proclaiming, “I’ll never grow up.” According to Powers, adults used to know what to wear and how to behave; they knew not only what to do but also what not to do. Now, however, marketers direct their pitches to these half-adults.

Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox (Kindle Locations 1482-1490). Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.

I have been posting on this Yin/Yang of American culture for ten posts now. These first ten posts have been on the positive aspects of our culture. We will now start a discussion on areas where we could show improvements, where we could learn from the rest of the world. I am pretty much a pragmatist, I look for good ideas wherever I can find them. The “Not Invented Here” syndrome which is so prevalent in much of this country’s population seems to have passed me by.

In the 1970s I was in my “searching” years and I read deeply in the area of psychology. One of my favorite authors was Eric Berne who invented transactional analysis. It is a theory that all our transactions originate in one of three states; Parent, Adult, Child. I won’t go into more details here than to say that many communications between two people occur in the child mode. Even among people no longer in that physical state. What Berne discovered is pretty much the same as Professor Eun states here.

Americans just don’t like to have to answer to other people. Many of us like to think that we are free from any responsibilities except to ourselves.  The above quote states that one-third of grown ups are not really grown up. As a result they no longer feel much of a responsibility toward their parents or in some degree even to their children. An extreme case of this self-absorption is called narcissism. I have some very direct and personal experiences in dealing with a narcissist parent. To boil it down I think the author is just saying we Americans are too full of ourselves.

Another aspect of not growing up is in our relationships to our children. We tend to let our kids do pretty much what they want. They have learned that if they don’t get what they want all they have to do is to throw a fit. We let them talk back to us. That would be a very serious thing in most other countries in the world. In other words parental authority is grossly lacking for many American parents. Along with this comes parental responsibility. One of the basic problems with America is that too many parents just don’t want to be parents anymore.

3 thoughts on “Yin/Yang and American Culture…. Parent /Child Relationship

  1. Our society values the stuff over the relationships. Self fulfillment is more important then the next generation or the last. Why do you think the current educated generation is waiting to marry or have children? They were sick of sitting in day care centers waiting for single moms to pick them up.
    God willing my grands will not raise themselves. Parental responsibility is taught every day before a child turns seven. No matter how much flack my “spoiled” girls get for wasting their degrees, my grandchildren are enjoying a childhood and learning how to be loving adults in our society.
    BTW- both of my boys are planning on taking time off when the kiddos hit high school and the girls are planning on going to work.
    As we all know now- 13 years is hardly anything in a lifetime!
    At least that is my take on the ying and yang of living in this great country.


  2. I don’t think this problem is isolated to America, it’s a worldwide issue, particularly in the developed world.

    In my opinion our generation have never been so privileged. They lack meaningful experiences that show them that people should be valued more than having “things” and our culture and capitalist system doesn’t help matters. We are constantly being bombarded that to be happy or successful you need item “x” or service “y”. It’s embedded into our system.

    Growing up, I recall my mother telling me that I shouldn’t worry too much bout money. That money is cheap, “things” are just “things”. Yeah they are nice to have, but at the end of the day all u need to be happy, is people in ur life, enough to eat and a roof over your head…

    I try to see understand why my parent can be content with so little “things”, and I really think it comes down to perspective formed from lifetime experiences. N well, I can’t say many of my generation, myself include understand what real sacrifice is.

    Just my 2cent btw, and I am very grateful that we in the developed world even have time to consider a problem such as this.


  3. Thanks for the comments you guys. It is interesting to hear that Australia has the same type of thing as we do in the U.S.

    Yeah, being content with only limited resources is contrary to capitalist belief where we much want more and more. I have lived a pretty frugal life myself without the stranglehold of “stuff”. As you say it is only stuff….


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