Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Screwed Up Children & Adults

If you took the time to analyze your friends, you'd probably realize that not all of them are really thought out. Some just go with the flow. Friends watch TV, so they watch. Same with concerts or school (some say that law school is where people go when they don't know what else to do and want to push off life for three more years) and with religion, personal relationships. Others are very well thought out. They know what they do and why. They might be cool and calculating, impersonal or just be hard to approach. Some advocate "tough love" and others become all lovey dovey.

My theory is that people who are screwed up are more likely to be well thought out that your average run of the mill person. A child who grows up in a normal household, two parents, nothing exciting, goes to yeshiva his or her entire life, followed by college, never really faces any pressure to think things through (at least until the Israel Flip Out occurs). After all, if your biggest crisis is which toy you're getting for Chanukah you don't have much reason to mature.

But, if parents are divorced, or God forbid deceased, or a sibling or close friend died, it forces the child to deal with different, and difficult, realities. How do you balance spending time with parents who despise each other, and fight or bad mouth each other in front of you? Or, due to problems at home you grew up going to schools where you stayed as a boarder at some total stranger's house, a new stranger every few years.

When you're forced to compete, you improve. Likewise, when you're forced to confront difficult scenarios you have two choices; either become a hermit or become mature. Children from "stable" homes with "normal" childhoods don't face the same issues as others, at least not until Israel or college. So they end up being better thought out than others, or at least get a headstart. The same troubled children are also more likely to be screwed up, but that's for another day.

Eventually the gap narrows. Israel and college are probably great equalizers. But I'm willing to bet that the initial difficulties leave imprints on the messed-up child's development which even adulthood has trouble erasing. Look at the number of abused children that go onto become child abusers themselves. Or troubled children who have problems socially as adults. I don't know of any studies one way or the other, but it seems to make sense to me.