The Romance of Risk: Why Teenagers Do the Things They Do

The Romance of Risk: Why Teenagers Do the Things They Do

The Romance of Risk: Why Teenagers Do the Things They Do

The Romance of Risk: Why Teenagers Do the Things They Do

Synopsis

In the tradition of Irvin Yalom's Love's Executioner, Dr. Lynn Ponton's remarkable book takes readers inside the minds of 15 troubled adolescents to provide a compelling look at today's teenage experience. Included are Jill, a 13-year-old thrill-seeking runaway; Hannah, a privileged daughter of suburbia who suffers from anorexia; and Joe, a high school senior with a serious drinking problem. The case studies vary from the puzzling to the horrifying, but with her confident and engaging voice, Ponton brings out the unifying themes in all of them. She proposes that teenage "acting out" can be understood in terms of "risk-taking", and that by redirecting this natural impulse into healthy channels parents can minimize the dangers inherent in today's teen culture and help their children develop into mature individuals.

Challenging the traditional views of adolescence and offering a constructive new model for understanding teenage behavior, The Romance of Risk is an essential book for parents concerned about their children's well-being in this age of drug abuse, rampant violence, and AIDS.

Excerpt

For the past fifteen years I've worked as an adolescent psychiatrist in San Francisco, spending each day seeing teenagers and their parents in varied settings. On a busy day I might begin by visiting a school to talk with teachers and parents about an adolescent in trouble, a teen perhaps ostracized by his or her peers, feared by teachers, struggling with grades, or in the midst of some other difficulty. Whether the parents and teachers are aware of it initially, such adolescents are almost always involved in unhealthy risk- taking. Their behavior can range from mild to severe, from shoplifting candy bars to stealing cars, from scapegoating a peer in the schoolyard to abusing others physically, from smoking marijuana to engaging in severe substance abuse, from body piercing to lifethreatening dieting, from getting into physical fights to having unprotected sex, and more. Sometimes adolescents are involved in several of these behaviors at once. Teachers are concerned and sometimes angry, pointing out that if things don't change soon this young person, "a bad influence on others," won't remain in their school. The teenager in trouble is often quiet and angry but speaks up enough to demand, "Why are all these adults talking about my private business?" The parents in these conferences are also angry, but more often they're scared: "How did my child get involved in this dangerous situation?" Their most common questions focus on . . .

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