The Case Against Adolescence

Rediscovering the Adult in Every Teen

by Robert Epstein (Quill Driver Books, Sanger, CA, 2007)


This great book disputes the recent trend to infantilize young people. The author offers massive evidence that many of our culture's problems (teen crime, depression, suicide, substance abuse, etc.) are a direct result of continuing to deny young people's obvious maturity. The book traces the trend to the beginning of the industrial revolution, in which adults with self-serving motives confronted the early problems of urbanization by restricting young people's opportunities to work and otherwise become functioning adults - as teens have done throughout recorded history and still do in most non-Westernized cultures around the world.

The legal and cultural invention of adolescence is an inappropriate and destructive relic today. There is now experimental evidence that teens have the potential to understand and handle responsibilities as well as adults, if not better, so the rights and privileges of "maturity" should be granted to individuals on the basis of demonstrated competency rather than counting birthdays. Age is NOT a reliable predictor of mental maturity; some teens are very mature, while some "adults" are very immature.

The author makes some radical proposals, but they are completely rational and justified by the evidence: Adolescents of any age should be certified as “emancipated” (and considered adults) if they pass a series of state competency exams, scoring better than 50% of adults who take the tests; compulsory schooling should be reduced to a minimum (hours, years and material), and traditional classrooms replaced with individualized (Internet) instruction spread over one’s lifetime – not concentrated in youth.

I recommend reading this book right away - don't wait until you become a parent of a teenager. The insightful information in this book should change your whole outlook on parenting.

Here's a link to the author's web site with information about the updated, expanded version of the book: Teen 2.0