The face of addiction: Differentiating between abuse and dependence.

 

 

 

 
Most people know the textbook example of addiction as the vicious, consuming black hole that can ultimately destroy one’s family, career, mental and physical health, and severely compromise the quality of life. Indeed, many of us have struggled with addiction or have encountered someone who has. Because of all the attention this disorder generates, it is easy to make sound judgment, to assume that a heavy drinker is an alcoholic or a cocaine user is a drug addict. Yet, as we will see, the criteria for diagnosing true substance dependence (addiction) is complex. 
addicthelp.org
 
First of all, not everyone who indulges in their vices, whether it be smoking, drinking, drugs, gambling, shopping, etc. is considered dependent. People who repeatedly continue their self-destructing behavior, despite recognizing how the habit is negatively affecting their quality of life, are engaging in substance abuse. They may face serious ramifications, such as legal trouble, financial struggles, problems at home, etc. However, unlike those with substance dependence, they do not exhibit substance tolerance or withdrawal symptoms.
 
Substance abuse however can transcend into substance dependence. The theories about this spiral into addiction are both controversial and plentiful: neurological disruptions regarding levels of serotonin and dopamine, genetics, environmental cues, etc. Still, it should be noted that abuse does not always lead to dependence. Many people go through an “experimental stage,” especially during their teenage and young adulthood years, and they do not suffer from addiction later on.
 
For people with substance dependence, however, the user acquires tolerance to the substance, therefore requiring a dosage increase to achieve the same intoxication or altered state. Likewise, the individual is deemed unsuccessful in reducing or quitting from the substance, despite his or her willpower or desire to do so. Withdrawal symptoms, such as hangovers, headaches, tremors, nausea, and shakes, occur during periods of abstinence. When the individual engages in the substance, he or she often often intakes more than intended and a “loss of control” feeling is common. Individuals may go to extreme measures (theft, lying, spending inordinate amounts of money or time) to find the substance when experiencing strong cravings for it.
 
 
It is critical to understand that the two mental illnesses are not interchangeable. In other words, a person cannot have both diagnoses at the same time. For users to be considered substance dependent, they must have already surpassed the stage of substance abuse. Furthermore, the necessary course of treatment action is different. Treatment plans for substance abuse often promote learning the appropriate strategies and techniques to reduce environmental and social triggers for cutting back intake. Some, but certainly not all, individuals choose a path of sobriety at this point. While people may seek professional help at this point, others are able to quit or cut back and improve their quality of life on their own. However, for people who are substance dependent, the treatment tends to be more aggressive. Recovery programs, such as the popular Twelve Steps and rehabilitation centers, usually advocate full sobriety. Most individuals must seek professional help in order to achieve this.
 
It should also be noted that the amount and frequency of abuse does not necessarily determine dependence. In fact, the face of addiction is difficult to detect, simply because some people engage in their substances secretly or do not fit the “addict” stereotype. Others may go through stages of heavy use followed by stages of abstinence or steady use. For instance, a college student who goes out to the bars and staggers home drunk every night for one week cannot automatically be deemed an alcoholic. For one, dependence patterns must have been evident for at least twelve months. This rules out most situational factors and variables that can lead to substance abuse. Also, we must consider the context. Is this drinking binge an isolated event? Did an emotional event, whether happy or sad, just happen?  Let’s examine an elderly woman who drinks a glass of wine a night to calm her nerves. A few months, noticing she is feeling more stressed, she starts drinking two glasses. Sometimes, on particularly bad nights, she finishes the bottle. Is she substance dependent? If she finds that she cannot curtail her habit, despite a longing to quit and the withdrawals provoke a sense of anxiety and relentlessness, she may be developing a problem.
 
To conclude, we are quick to throw around the terms like addiction and addict, but automatic labeling can be harsh, false, and detrimental to a person who is not actually suffering from dependence. While there is a plethora of research discussing the proposed models of addiction, it is important to continue studying why most people engage in substance abuse at some point and why only some of them transcend into substance dependence. This knowledge can help prevent and raise awareness about the addiction epidemic.
 
References:
All information can be retrieved from the DSM-IV-TR or behavenet.com; substance abuse and substance dependence.

 

 

 

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Lance Armstrong, doping, and how the average person responds.

 

 

 

As of now, the verdict behind the allegations of Lance Armstrong using performance enhancing drugs during his pro-cycling career, is still unclear, but the assumptions are rampant. If charged guilty,  Armstrong will be not only banned from competing in this sport, but the U.S Anti-Doping Agency will strip him of his record-breaking, seven Tour De France titles.

The full article about this controversy can be found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/24/sports/cycling/lance-armstrong-ends-fight-against-doping-charges-losing-his-7-tour-de-france-titles.html?pagewanted=all

Armstrong is not refuting these charges, and, in fact, in response to all the doping allegations, he stated, “There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, enough is enough. For me, that time is now.

In the name of cycling, Armstrong’s name is synonymous with success and fame, just as Tiger Woods was with golfing (before his cheating scandal), Kobe Bryant is with basketball, and Serena Williams is with tennis. These names carry a certain degree of fame, because people recognize them, even if they do not follow that particular sport. 

In line with the makeup of most court cases, Armstrong’s high-profile situation can conceivably go in four directions: 

1. Armstrong is considered guilty, although he is actually innocent.

In statistics, we call this Type 1 Error. In law enforcement, this refers to the belief of “guilty until proven innocent.” In sports and media cases, however, this is usually uncommon, because we take extreme measures to avoid accusing an individual (especially celebrities) of a crime he or she did not admit.  As of now, Armstrong represents a strong, moral character in both professional athletics and cancer advocacy. A guilty charge will likely result in a dramatic loss of supporters, sponsors, and overall disapproval. HOWEVER, if, in fact, he is found innocent and this is discovered much later on, the public will respond with overwhelming rage towards the “injustice” of the legal team and court power behind the case.

2. Armstrong is considered innocent, and he is actually innocent.

This an ideal situation within the political spectrum. However, just like any other court outcome, it has its share of flaws. For instance, it is far easier to prove innocence over guilt, since guilt demands a certain criteria of evidence. In Armstrong’s case, guilt is hard to prove, since this case refers to past allegations, and Armstrong cannot actually be tested for using performance enhancing drugs. The U.S Anti-Doping Agency will have to dig much deeper to find substantial evidence to convict him of committing the alleged crimes, including looking back at former test results and hearing the eyewitness testimonies of several close teammates. Upon the completion of this battery of tasks, if Armstrong is convicted innocent, some will respond with relief and restoration in an iconic American figure. Others will once again be disappointed in the way law enforcement favors celebrities.

3. Armstrong is considered guilty, and he is actually guilty.

This, too, is considered an ideal situation, because it removes the ambiguity and replaces it with the black-and-white. Above all, a guilty sentence with substantial evidence provides reassurance, in the sense that justice is served. We seek this in high-profile criminal cases, such as murder or rape, when we feel certain that the alleged perpetrator was indeed guilty. If this happens to Armstrong, his prestigious reputation will suffer, and consequently, he will lose many privileges and support he generates as a professional cyclist. However, not everyone will be disappointed. Some supporters will stand by his side and point out that, “most everyone else was doping, too.” In all levels of athletics, cheating is a rampant trend; few, however, actually get caught and in trouble for their crimes. Cycling is not immune to the doping scandal, and Armstrong is hardly a unique case in regards to the Tour De France. A guilty sentence may simply reinforce and bring attention to this epidemic in professional sports, which can help strengthen future laws and disciplinary action. 

4. Armstrong is considered innocent, although he is actually guilty.

This is a realistic representative of the “err on the side of caution” case, and in the legal sense, because we do not convict someone “until proven guilty.” People tend to perceive this as either the best thing we have in judicial court, or the worst, due to its subjective nature. Celebrities have the luxury to afford the best attorneys and public relations teams. The criminal justice system appears to favor individuals with status and affluence, which can explain why famous people often receive lesser sentences or jail time for their crimes than would average citizens. With regards to Armstrong, if this situation occurred, he would essentially “beat the system.” The public response tends to divide when this happens. Avid supporters will likely respond in a smug, “I told you so” manner, whereas those who oppose Armstrong or believe in the doping accusations may refuse to take an innocent charge at face-value and argue that “he’s guilty, but just got lucky, because he’s famous.” This type of behavior was famously displayed with the drawn-out O.J Simpson trial.

In conclusion, Lance Armstrong’s reputation has already shifted from world-class professional cyclist and famous cancer advocate to “the cyclist who may have been doping.” In the next few weeks, that title will change again to “the cheater who doped” or “the cyclist who was accused of dope,” depending on the court outcome. Nevertheless, his sentence will stir even more controversy, because an innocent verdict does not mean everyone will necessarily believe it, just as not everyone will believe he is guilty if given a guilty verdict. And, finally, there will always people who argue that we spend far too much attention on high-profile celebrities, and that this is an irrelevant issue anyway.

 

 

 

Seven Myths About Mental Illness Most People Still Believe

Mental disorders often face the extreme brute of many false claims and phony beliefs, causing social alienation, stress, and frustration from those individuals who are suffering from one. Therefore, it is very important to understand both the causes, definitions, and symptoms of mental disorders before making judgment calls. Below are some very popular myths debunked.

Myth: Depression is a state of mind one can snap out of if he or she finds the willpower.
Reality: Depression, like all other mental illnesses, is a complex disorder with several theories leading to its causation, none of which coincide with choice or willpower. These theories include neurotransmitter (serotonin and norepinephrine) and brain structure abnormalities, environmental cues, extreme trauma, and co-morbidity with other mental disorders. In other words, depression is not a matter of one choosing to wallow in misery. Just as it is difficult to force a happy smile during a sad time, suggesting to fake happiness when suffering from depression is often impossible and insulting.

Myth: People with pedophilia have sex with children.
Reality: People who are sexually attracted to children and have sex with children are pedophiles. However, there is a much larger percentage of individuals who have pedophilic fantasies, yet never disclose or execute them. These thoughts tend to create enormous distress, and society’s standard of deeming pedophiles as an exclusive, sick-minded population, only heighten the suffering. Most people fail to understand that these individuals know their thoughts are sickening and wrong, yet they cannot stop them. Paraphilias refer to sexual fantasies or urges related to non-human objects or non-consenting persons; other ones include exhibitionism, voyeurism, sexual masochism, and sexual sadism. These are all mental disorders, not just a set of fantasies individuals choose to enjoy. In fact, paraphilias are often very tormenting and detrimental to an individual’s self-esteem and intimate relationships, and treatment is far more complicated than simply changing one’s thoughts.

Myth: People with schizophrenia pose a dangerous threat to society.
Reality: The majority of people suffering from schizophrenia are in no danger of hurting anyone else. Schizophrenia is categorized by disturbances in one’s thought processes and typically include distortion with reality from imagination; these can be manifested as hallucinations, delusions, heightened paranoia, and abnormal sensations and perceptions. Under appropriate medication and treatment, these individuals are no more likely to harm someone else than someone who is not suffering from schizophrenia. In fact, people with schizophrenia are more likely to be victims of crime, because a large population are homeless and can be easy targets for abuse. Moreover, ignorance leads many people into believing they are dangerous or strange, increasing motivation for violence. 

Myth: To be anorexic, one must be severely underweight.
Reality: Diagnosing eating disorders has transitioned into focusing on the state of mind, rather than the state of body. This is why they can difficult to detect; an anorexic state of mind refers to the preoccupation and fears of eating, restriction of food intake, constant thoughts about body image, and a strong need to seek control in one’s diet. For this reason, most anorexic individuals do suffer from malnourishment, thus rapidly decreasing their body weights beyond what is healthy. However, if they exhibit these mental symptoms, both men and women can be diagnosed with anorexia, despite the number on the scale.

Myth: Social phobia disorder is just another name for shyness.
Reality: Shyness refers to experiencing discomfort around others, especially around strangers. People suffering from shyness often feel self-conscious when interacting, and they may believe others are constantly watching or judging them.This can lead to fear, embarrassment, and anxiety in social situations. Social phobia disorder is more serious than shyness, in that the severe preoccupation with social situation interferes with ordinary activities, such as work, school, and relationships. Whereas people with shyness may feel uncomfortable in certain situations involving other people, they do not typically avoid them. To be diagnosed with social phobia disorder, one must have a deliberating adversity to certain social situations that affects everyday functioning. Indeed, social phobia disorder can induce panic attacks and increased motivation to avoid all social situations.

Myth: Premature ejaculation indicates a man is bad at sex.
Reality: After ruling out medical issues, premature ejaculation usually indicates performance anxiety. In most cases, men suffering from premature ejaculation tend to obsess about their problem when getting intimate with someone. This obsession manifests into anxiety, and once sex has been initiated, it is all the man can focus on. In most of the animal kingdom, premature ejaculation is normal, and in an evolutionary aspect, it makes sense, as our ancestors relied on quick intercourse to procreate and secure survival. Most psychologists and sex therapists agree that one must learn how to voluntarily delay orgasm in order to avoid premature ejaculation. Some men simply do not know how to control their sexual response, and this does not mean they are inexperienced or selfish. In fact, this issue is common and treatment is highly effective.

Myth: People with bipolar disorder swing back and forth from being really happy and really sad.
Reality: This is a very broad interpretation, and bipolar disorder is much more complex in how it affects one’s mood and mental state of being. This generic extreme idea of dramatic swinging back and forth is uncommon, as most individuals with bipolar disorder experience depression far more than mania. The idea of “extreme happiness” can be deceiving, as mania is not simply a state of euphoria: more commonly, individuals suffer from very intense, spontaneous, elevated moods that can be both frightening and unpredictable. Likewise, there are different types of bipolar disorder, and emotions often range all over the spectrum, not just at the extreme highs and lows.

Why all the hate on boy bands?

Photo Credit: http://singersworld.com/group/nsyncfanclub

Inevitably, whenever a new pop band emerges, they generate nasty backlash, and at times, it seems their only fans are the screaming, pubescent girls who flaunt their merchandise and would give anything just to sit in the nosebleed sections of one of their concerts. Meanwhile, the rest of the population responds in a variety of ways, mostly negative, with common insults taunting the band’s lack of talent, alleged gayness, and overall terrible quality.

Photo Credit: http://stardomreport.com/2012/04/29/kevin-richardson-announces-return-to-backstreet-boys/

Why the resistance? We all know that music, just like religion and politics, induces ground for controversy. Even though the majority of individuals claim to “like anything,” most are attracted to specific genres. This, of course, varies depending on many factors, such as one’s upbringing, geographic location, and lifestyle. Still, the psychology behind this is both intriguing and necessary, seeing as boy band music influences much of the 8-17 year-old female population, no matter what the generation.

Proposed theories of boy band resistance

1. Jealousy: Most of this backlash comes from males, and as much as they may criticize the band, the scrutiny probably stems from a deeper level. Most of these musicians acquire enormous fame within a very short time frame. Whereas women tend to compare their appearances to other women, men tend to compare based on perceived power and status. Members of a successful boy band, no matter how temporary their fortune may be, enjoy the perks of immense wealth and an abundance of women, two elements of extremely high importance to men. Both teenage boys and young males can feel insecure about their own appearance and body image, especially when girls their openly admit and gush about their “celebrity crushes,” as they commonly do. Likewise, we envy those more successful than us. If a young boy band acquires quick fame and fortune, older people may feel “they have not earned it” or they “just got lucky,” thus provoking more jealousy.

Photo Credit: http://thisandthatandmoreofthesame.blogspot.com/2012/04/one-direction-nesw.html

2. Pretentiousness: In the scope of art and creative expression, people are quick to offer biased opinions about the definition of talent. Although most individuals claim to like “all kinds of music,” the truth is, most of us are attracted to some genres over others. For example, heavy metal fans may shudder at the sound of hoedown country music, just as rock and roll fans may grumble about the mainstream infusion of rap and hip-hop. Even more specific than genres, fans can be picky in reference to the kind of music they consider worthy. For example, some refuse to listen to music that isn’t original or doesn’t feature instruments. Some appreciate strong song lyrics, while others seek impressive instrumental solos. Boy bands, unfortunately, are a target of artistic bullying, because by nature, they tend to target their music  to a younger, less mature crowd, and most of their pop music relies only on audio, rather than instrumental talent. Moreover, many boy bands rely on maintaining a specific image or appearance for success, which can cause a stir in opponents.

Photo Credit: http://idolator.com/photos/hanson-reveal-2011-tour-dates

3. Homophobia: Unfortunately, many boy bands still suffer from the negative reputation of “being gay.” Oftentimes, opponents (typically being males), will exacerbate  any slight sensory cue, such as a haircut, outfit, or even a high-pitched voice, and deem either the band or a specific member as “gay.” Just like an all-or-nothing, if-then statement, some people actually believe that if a man likes a boy band, then he or she must either be gay or must like gay music. Homophobia still represents a major problem, and young people are especially sensitive to what others think. Therefore, they may be afraid to admit in liking boy bands, given their knowledge of its harsh stereotyping.

Photo Credit: http://www.fanpop.com/spots/the-jonas-brothers-jb/images/29554505/title/jonas-brothers-photo

4. Bitterness: To take it one step further than jealousy, people may dislike boy bands simply because of personal failure to succeed in the creative arts. We often see this adversity with struggling musicians, lyricists, actresses, dancers, etc. They may resent this band, because they believe the members did not have to put in the time or effort to achieve fame. After all, behind every signed artist is a thousand more individuals vying to write their own success story. Bitterness can be detected in the outright nasty comments; these individuals often use terms such as, this band is an insult to music or they are just another sell-out.

Photo Credit: http://www.usmagazine.com/entertainment/news/98-degrees-reuniting-for-one-night-at-the-summer-mixtape-festival-2012206

5. THEY’RE LYING: Ever heard of the term, guilty pleasure? How many people indulge in lousy reality television shows or trashy paperback beach reads, yet when engaging in a conversation about media or literature, never elaborate on the current People magazine scandal or Jersey Shore episode? The same applies with music. Certain coveted bands bring credibility and widespread acceptance. Most Americans can mutually agree on the talent of “classic” musicians, such as The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, and Johnny Cash. When asked about their favorite musicians, people often report popular bands or singers, knowing that it increases their social desirability, because others will identify and relate. Boy band fame, on the other hand, is often short-lived, and therefore, constantly evolving. Yet, whenever a new band emerges, they tend to sell out concert tours, flood the radio stations, top the Billboard charts, and enjoy a deafening audience of adoring fans. Most people will claim to dislike the band, simply because they believe they should. In reality, most everyone knows a few songs they would be ashamed to admit they enjoy.

When believing that “the customer is always right” is wrong

Photo Credit: http://www.customerservicepoint.com/the-customer-is-always-right-quote-unknown.html

We’ve all encountered those people, the rude, screaming, intolerable jerks who  manifest their sense of entitlement on anyone they consider inferior. We’ve heard them shouting over the phone to tech support, demanding to speak with a manager when in line at a store, and complaining incessantly about slow service in a restaurant. Why the bitterness and lashing out? After all, weren’t most of us once at the bottom of the totem pole, bussing crumbs off tables, folding a pile of wrinkled, disorganized clothes, smiling with gritted teeth at a line of angry people? Weren’t most of us victims of the cruel, submissive world that is minimum-wage pay? And when we were serving as underappreciated employees, didn’t we all make that same vow to never ever be that insensitive, ridiculous customer.

Photo Credit: http://www.phonecan.com/index.php/responsibility-let-me-speak-with

And yet, we are masters of hypocrisy; quite skilled in removing ourselves from our prior, weakling statuses once we obtain just a miniscule ounce of power. Just as teenagers promise to never discipline their own kids the same way their parents discipline them, employees in customer-service related jobs often claim they will never treat someone with the disrespect and cruelty they frequently encounter. But lo and behold, teenagers grow up, and when they have children, they quickly realize importance of establishing power and utilizing authority and discipline as needed. Likewise, when low-earning employees are promoted into higher positions, many struggle with this new rank. Power is undoubtedly complex. It becomes even more complex when it is loosely established by outdated adages, rather than specifically defined. In American consumerism, we give the power to the customer. The customer is always right represents a very popular all-or-nothing theory. Many workplaces drill this business ploy into their employees’ minds. Often seen in interview processes, employers expect potential candidates to recite this line when asked what customer service means to them. While this may play nicely in theory, its execution can create enormous turmoil and hostility within the company. When unruly customers think they are always right, they may feel inclined to take advantage of a company knowing their outlandish demands will be accomodated. Likewise, when employees believe they are never right, they can feel helpless and ineffective when trying to settle out a dispute.

 

In other words, companies can lose A TON of money and employees can lose A TON of dignity just by complying with the unfair demands of an unrealistic customer.

Photo Credit: http://www.socialchangemodel.org/providing-excellent-customer-service/

Let me speak to your supervisor! is another example of misconstrued ego. Customers use this line to establish dominance over a situation, and its force shows an employee that he or she is valueless to the customer. Although supervisors have more flexibility regarding company policy, making exceptions to benefit a customer is usually done by individual discretion. Dismissing a lower-level employee and demanding to speak to a supervisor invites a host of issues; if the manager honors that customer when he or she is absolutely wrong, he is demonstrating that the company values customer loyalty above the treatment of their employees. This can either make the customer feel special and motivated to continue services with the company, or it can lead the customer into believing he or she has beaten the system. Those individuals will likely continue taking advantage of the company’s genorisity again. Again, this is in reference to the small population of rude and vial customers plaguing our service-related industry. Asking to speak to a manager simply because the problem is beyond the scope of an employee’s responsibilities is not a crime. Calling an employee incompetent and then demanding to speak to someone “who can help” is.

Photo Credit: http://saucevictoria.com/ouch-that-stings

What do companies gain by giving into these unruly customers? Extra money? Obviously. Loyalty? Not exactly. Once slighted, the complaining, unsatisfied customers are more likely to distrust the company and its products. Therefore, they are become primed to notice flaws and mistakes in future services. It seems as if they are just waiting for the company to screw up again. Do companies benefit from these customers breathing down their backs, ready to pounce on them again at another hint of a slight mistake, eager to criticize and take advantage of them bending over backwards for them? More importantly, how can we better address this uneven dynamic within employees, supervisors, and customers? Proposed ideas include: encouraging teenagers to acquire part-time jobs (this shows responsibility, and since most of these are lower-end, minimum-wage positions, they will experience a fair share of rude people), training and providing employees with more discretion to make executive decisions regarding “bending” or “changing” company policies to adhere to a particular customer’s needs, and, finally, revising the old-fashioned the customer is always right statement.

Is marriage really necessary anymore?

Photo Credit: http://www.weddingcaketoppers.com/

The showy proposal. The breathtaking sight of a gorgeous bride walking down the aisle. Sunset photos captured during a blissful honeymoon. The first indication of a slight baby bump. Pattering of children feet. An idyllic image of two elderly hands linked together, their minds and hearts in synchrony.

Marriage. It’s the most sacred union held between two people; a commitment attesting to everlasting love and promised security. Americans have long upheld the belief that love, above all, is the key component to a successful marriage. Phrases like soul mates and happily ever after have been embedded into our society for years, and we like it that way. Little girls fantasize about their dream weddings; young men obsess about how to pop the infamous question. Annually, the diamond ring, wedding, and honeymoon industries each comprise of multi-billion-dollar industries. Entire shows and networks are devoted to finding the perfect match, online dating has filtered into the mainstream, and most individuals, even those who are single and at the height of their bachelor or bachelorette days, are enthusiastic in admitting that, yes, they want and plan to eventually get married.

Photo Credit: http://www.zazzle.com/and_they_lived_happily_ever_after_bride_and_groom_postcard-239185740237415862

Yet, despite the stubborn emphasis to marry for happiness and refusing to settle for less than the very best, our country’s divorce rate still hovers at an alarming 40-50%. This figure fluctuates depending on the year and type of marriage (first, second, etc.), but the range has remained relatively stable within the past twenty years. This rate can be attributed to a variety of factors, such as race, age, demographic, and income significantly predict first-marriage divorce. Nevertheless, the marriage dynamic has shifted dramatically in the later turn of the twentieth century. The prized nuclear family has all but vanished, making room for the emergence of casual encounters, cohabiting couples, mulch-generational households, and an entire group of single and never-married individuals.

So, let’s examine why we do get married.

1. Financial Security: Unromantic, sure, but this reason remains the most popular across the globe. In most parts of the world, marriage resembles more of a strategic business partnership than a holy matrimony of love. In fact, the idea of marrying the love of your life was once a radical concept, as it was assumed the couple would simply grow to like or potentially love each other after several years. Although the classic “gold-digger” and “sugar-daddy” stereotypes are still in practice today, we often mock rather than desire them. Although some marry for financial reasons, most modern Americans would not marry for money if they did not love the other person.

Since the soar of women seeking careers during the latter half of the twentieth century, the societal emphasis for maintaining the masculine breadwinner role has declined.  While many wives report that they enjoy working and providing supplementary income, more and more families simply lack the luxury to exist on a single-household income. Likewise, females currently outnumber males on college campuses in respects to enrollment figures and graduation. During the wake of the financial recession, due to the massive layoffs and company downsizing in male-dominated fields, many wives and girlfriends suddenly became the primary source of household income.

On this note, we have experienced an enormous shift in the way parents raise their female children. Adults rarely, if ever, tell little girls that they don’t have to worry because a nice man will come along and take care of them. In fact, we encourage them to pursue their academic and professional interests, often stressing that they can do anything they want. As a result, we have seen a strong surge in female empowerment. Whereas girls may have once grown up expecting to become a housewife, many now admire positive role models, such as female politicians, doctors, or lawyers. Indeed, just within the media realm of movies, television shows, and literature, most female characters have careers. As a whole, we are moving into the acceptance of equality among sexes. Therefore, marrying for financial security, while often desirable, does not appear to be an absolute necessity anymore.

Photo Credit: http://www.toonpool.com/cartoons/Baby%20market_28798

2. Raising children: After a short bout of going steady, couples used to wed in their late teens and early twenties and punched out multiple children before thirty. Premarital sex was often forbidden or highly criticized and most considered out-of-wedlock pregnancy sinful.Today, in secular America, having multiple sex partners prior to tying the knot is common, and rather than condemning unmarried couples or single women raising children, we often pay our respects.

Furthermore, raising children has become more of a choice than ever before. Nowadays, many couples postpone marriage and pregnancy in order to complete school, settle into a successful career, and save money. With contraception widely available, this wait can be easy and convenient. On the other hand, many individuals have chosen to raise children without the support of a spouse. This includes the explosion of in-vitro fertilization, adoption, and surrogate mothers. Wannabe mothers that realize the time constraints on their biological clocks may choose this option if Mr. Right hasn’t yet come along. Likewise, even when pregnancy occurs in committed relationships, the couple may raise the child and stay together without marrying. While young parents historically fit in this category, many older, more-established couples choose this option, often perceiving marriage as just a piece of paper or something they can do later down the line. While getting married for the sake of raising children remains a predominant reason around the world, this no longer represents an absolute necessity in modern America.

Photo Credit: http://www.lovingyou.com/articles/845341/top-30-famous-love-quotes

3. Love: Naturally, this notion is difficult to argue, because of its sensitive and fragile definition. Although it is certainly idealistic to believe love is the glue keeping marriages afloat and in tact despite whatever obstacles threaten its path, the divorce statistics, rise in marital counseling, and climbing number of extramarital affairs, seem to report a different story. The problem with marrying solely for love is that those intense feelings and sensations for love change over the course of time. This change can be subtle or powerful; positive or negative; terrifying or comforting, but usually, what begins as an exciting, fast-paced obsession tunnels into a comfortable, mundane routine. Just like all elements of life, love has its share of highs and lows. Oftentimes, people rush into marriage, choose to ignore the flaws that eventually become magnified, fail to discuss major life values, or simply stop working at maintaining marital satisfaction. Yet, most of us are blissfully optimistic. Research indicates that most college students believe they will marry the loves of their lives, and when questioning engaged couples, an overwhelming response said they would never, ever get divorced.

In 2012, in this changing society coexisting with an abundance of unconventional households, does the sanctity of marriage represent just another archaic tradition that will soon phase out? We seem to take great delight in bashing the short-lived Hollywood unions, yet when faced with our own futures, we seem to struggle with idea of not having a partner till death do us part.

With the average human lifespan hovering around 80-85 years old, is marrying one person a desirable, or even sane, choice? Time, and its unfolding of new traditions and evolving definition of the new definition for family and love, will tell.

References:

Copen, C.C, Daniels, K., Vespa, J., Mosher, W. (2012). First Marriages in the United States: Data From the 2006–2010 National Survey of Family Growth. Division of Vital Statistics. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr049.pdf

Putnam, R. R. (2011). First comes marriage, then comes divorce: A perspective on the process. Journal Of Divorce & Remarriage, 52(7), 557-564. doi:10.1080/10502556.2011.615661

An examination of parents’ struggle with discussing the birds and the bees

Photo Credit: http://www.legacydad.com/2011/05/kids-and-technology.html

The year is 2012, and let’s face it, thanks to the virtues of technology and media, few kids are safe from discovering the complex, taboo adult world. How can they be, after all, when elementary school children tote around iPhones, reality television glamorizes rampant hooking up and casual encounters, movies with mere PG-13 ratings make sexually-explicit references, and an overwhelming majority of American adolescents and teenagers spend hours a day updating their Facebook statuses, tweeting on Twitter, and uploading pictures on Instagram?

As per human nature, we all have some natural inclination to explore and question the unknown, and most of us recognize this strong sense of curiosity in children. In fact, for the most part, we encourage the strengthening and expansion of their simple minds.

Yet, we still remain stubbornly ignorant when it comes to talking about sex. We remain ignorant despite believing children have more negative influences in the sexuality realm than ever before, despite the nearly 1/3 girls who become pregnant at least once by twenty, despite the 1/4 teenagers who contract a sexually transmitted disease, despite the explosion and quick accessibility of online pornography, despite the raunchy songs flooding our radio stations, and despite the saturation of hyper-sexualized media exposed to our children,

Why?

Just like most issues and controversies in psychology, the answer is not a simple, black-and-white matter. Instead, there are several reasons.

-Perception that children are not old enough to learn about sex: In one study, (Wilson, E. K., Dalberth, B. T., Koo, H. P., & Gard, J. C., 2010) the majority of participants (parents with children aged 10-12) agreed that while it was important that children learn about sex, they felt theirs were too young. A few stated they didn’t want to discuss sex until “their child brought it up,” somehow believing that they were blissfully unaware of the issue.

-Uncertainty or lack of information: Most parents understand the basics of sex and realize how careless teenagers can be once they start having it. Still, parents often fear they may not have all the answers or that their child will challenge them with an obscure question or remark. For instance, although a mother may stress the importance of using protection, she mights squirm if her daughter asks to see a doctor for a birth control pill prescription. Likewise, parents often feel uncertain about their own personal stance on the “rights and wrongs” of sex. For example, it is very easy to say, don’t have sex. But when a child prods further and asks when the right time might be, parents fear they may not know how to specifically responsible.

-Perception that their child won’t listen or won’t care: The stereotype of the distant, moody, hormone-laden teenager who fails to act receptively comes to mind on this one. Parents may fear that their children will process information by taking it in one ear and out the other when discussing sex, and some believe their children will perceive them as either out of touch or unable to understand. They may believe it is too late, and that if they do express concern or try to talk, their children may just neglect or completely ignore their advice.

-Denial: This is a very popular coping mechanism and a frequent parenting strategy when raising children. Many like to believe believe their child is superior to the rebellion norm, and when suspecting sexual activity or drug and alcohol use, they often resort to turning the other cheek, rather than believing their child is engaging in disappointing behavior. For this reason, parents may avoid talking about sex, simply because they believe their children are smart and savvy enough to handle the matter on their own.

-Discomfort: Although we live in a society that practically brainwashes us with images, music, and media centered on sex, we still find it exceedingly difficult to talk about it in a way that doesn’t make us or our listeners cringe. Likewise, we often struggle with the idea of our children growing up so quickly. How many times have we lamented that it was only yesterday, I was dropping her off for her first day of kindergarten or it was only yesterday, he was playing with his Hot Wheels. Suddenly, awkward adolescent children morph into growing teenagers, and we realize that sex must be on their minds. However, if we still perceive them as young, immature, or naive to the real world, we feel uncomfortable talking to them about such a private, “adult” issue.

Personal beliefs: Religion, ethnicity, or background all play a role in discussing sexual behavior. Many times, parents avoid discussing sex, because they believe if they talk about it, they are condoning the act. Moreover, they may believe that discussing it is inappropriate or goes against their moral beliefs.

Fear: Or, if I talk to my kid about the birds and the bees, they’re gonna go out and DO IT! This one is classic, due to its hypocritical nature. We tend to enjoy teaching our children life lessons and expressing  what not to do, but once it comes to sex, we feel terrified. terrified. We think that just talking about sex, we are essentially planting the notion into their minds.

So, casting all these fears and boundaries aside, why should parents tough it out and talk about sex?

For one, despite parents thinking their child is too young, innocent, or naive, sexuality is already planted in their minds. Instead of pointing fingers at parents, we can thank the child’s peers, favorite television shows and books, pornography, music and the Internet for that.

Furthermore, studies indicate that when parents talk about sex, both they and their children benefit. The maintenance of an ongoing, “open-door” dialogue policy encourages increased communication and comfort. Children report feeling more at ease in confiding with their parents about their questions, fears, and experiences, and parents feel more connected and assured in their child’s decisions.

Children who interact with their parents about sex tend to wait longer to lose their virginity, and if and when they do engage in sexual activity, are more likely to use protection and avoid unwanted pregnancies and transmitted diseases. Moreover, compared to children who never discussed it with their parents, children who do talk about sex with their families are less likely to regret their first experiences.

It is primal human instinct to desire feeling understood by others. When teenagers no longer feeling judged or afraid of how their parents might react to discussing sex, they will feel more comfortable and confident when the time to start making big decisions arises.

References

Wilson, E. K., Dalberth, B. T., Koo, H. P., & Gard, J. C. (2010). Parents’ perspectives on talking to preteenage children about sex. Perspectives On Sexual And Reproductive Health, 42(1), 56-63. doi:10.1363/4205610