Resistance and Subversion
as Developmental Process
Judith G. Smetana
University of Rochester
Adolescence is problematic in contemporary American society. The prevailing view is that adolescence is a normative period of storm and stress entailing a generation gap and rebellion against adult standards; adolescents are also said to be experiencing a drastic decline in moral values. These views are evident in a variety of different places. For instance, childrearing advice books provide an intriguing window on popular culture perceptions of teenagers. A quick perusal of parenting advice books suggests that adolescence is a battleground. Titles such as Surviving Your Adolescents: How to Manage and Let Go of Your 13-18 Year Olds(Phelan, 1998), Teenagers: ABewildered Parents' Guide(Caldwell, 1996), and “I'm Not Mad! I Just Hate You!”: A New Understanding of Mother-Daughter Conflict(Cohen-Sandier & Silver, 1999) portray parenting an adolescent as a challenging task and being an adolescent as equally difficult.
These negative perceptions of adolescents are echoed in the opinions of the general public. A recent nationally representative telephone survey of more than 2,000 adults, conducted by the Public Agenda (Duffet, Johnson, & Farkas, 1999), examined adults' views of teenagers today. The majority of adults surveyed (53%) had negative views of children, but they had substan-
This chapter is based on an invited talk given at the Annual Meetings of the Association for Moral Education, Chicago, October 2002.