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The Evolution of Family Patterns and Indirect Therapy with Adolescents

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This text presents a picture of contemporary family patterns that might produce problems of social and psychopathologic deviance in adolescents. It is the outcome of the teamwork of 32 researchers and therapists, members of the Centre of Strategic Therapy in Arezzo. This work was put together over a period of five years, where the research-intervention group met on a monthly basis under the author's personal supervision, to put together the data gathered from thousands of cases of disturbed adolescents with the aim of better the application of specific strategic interventions in parent-child problematics.The purpose of this book is to point out clearly how some problems of contemporary adolescents can be triggered off and how they can be prevented or solved. It is meant to be a training text for specialists but it is also reader-friendly and can be appreciated both by parents and children so that both can come to avoid the traps hidden in relationships and their dysfunctional aspects. In other words, the aim is to 'correct' "the best intentions that produce the worst effects".

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CHAPTER ONE: The evolution of the family: from affective deprivation to over-protectiveness

ePub

“A first glance does not give the ideas of the things we see”

(Condillac, 1718)

The years following the Second World War have witnessed a considerable evolution in the organization of the family, T owing to the socio-economic and cultural changes of the past fifty years. We have observed, in fact, the passage from a typology of the merely “patriarchal” to the “nuclear” family. According to the most up-to-date ISTAT1 statistics, the average number of the components of the family has further diminished, while the choice of having only one child has increased. We notice an upside-down formation of the family tree, where the only child becomes the recipient of all the attention poured on to him by his parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, the latter remaining, more and more often, unmarried.

The cultural and social capability to take care of the upbringing and maintenance of the new generations and the increase in unemployment induce young people to postpone home-leaving decisions. Seventy per cent of young people aged up to thirty, mainly males, even if they are economically independent, continue to live with their parents, under their mother's wings (Buzzi, Cavalli, &De Lillo, 2002). Therefore, we can speak of an “extended family” where adult subjects live together. This phenomenon is particularly evident in wealthy and industrialized countries. In 1999, Time magazine made an inquiry about this issue, interviewing families in which young people over thirty years old were still living at home, regardless of the fact that they had jobs and were therefore economically independent. When asked about the reasons for this choice, the over thirty-year-olds answered, “Why should I go and live on my own? My mother pampers me; the way she cooks! … you couldn't eat like that in a restaurant, she irons my shirts perfectly, my bedroom is always tidy and clean. My father solves all my problems: he goes to pay my driving licence, the insurance, collects my post, queues at offices and banks for me, takes my car to the garage and brings it back for me fixed. He's just wonderful!” And the parents say: “Love doesn't hurt. Who can help him better than us, when he is in need? He remains home with us because he knows he can always rely on us.”

 

CHAPTER TWO: Redefining the adolescent and his family

ePub

“Because observing in this way you disjoin things in order to rejoin them”

(Condillac, 1718)

In proceeding with the observations and evaluations of the I emerging difficulties in modern adolescence and of how they may originate, we believe it is proper to reflect on the terms “adolescence” and “family”. In our opinion, the origin of problems is not within an individual seen as a “monad” out of his environment, driven by innate instincts, but in the quality of the relationships one manages to create and develop within one's own context and by the interactions one establishes with oneself, others, and the world.

Our first assumption is that there are no fixed structures of personality. From our point of view, behaviour originates neither from biologically innate temperament, as most exponents of organ-istic psychiatry maintain; nor by immutable imprints left by experiences in our childhood, as is maintained by psychoanalysts. We refer to individual systems of perception and reactions to a context; to tendencies or potentialities biologically determined, which vary from one individual to another and take on different features according to the system of relationships which each subject is placed in and which then are maintained by the redundant messages given by the adults who are in charge of the individual's education.

 

CHAPTER THREE: Contemporary patterns of familyi nteractions

ePub

“Ideas must be incomplete if they are to be exact”

(Condillac, 1718)

At this point of our exposition, after having defined the themes and the methodological criteria used to guide our research-intervention work on adolescence and the family, we now present the outcomes of our efforts. For further clarification, we have formulated a series of recurring patterns of organization within the relationships between parents and adolescent children, which we have identified as being responsible for the developing of relevant difficulties.

In order to clearly describe the above patterns, it is necessary to state:

•   their rules (syntax);

•   the meanings emerging from their application (semantics);

•   and the actions and types of behaviour produced by them (pragmatics).

Each pattern will be presented, together with its definition, through the following characteristics:

•   the usual ways of communication;

•   the type of relationship;

•   its rules;

•   the emerging meanings;

•   the consequences in people's actions.

 

CHAPTER FOUR: The modern adolescent

ePub

“The actions of the soul can be judged by the actions of the body”

(Condillac, 1718)

After describing the results of our enquiry into the patterns of family interaction, we now offer an image of the modern adolescent. We also outline some patterns of the typologies of young adults we have most frequently come across.

We do not mean to make an exhaustive representation of the universe of young people today, but only to provide a snap-shot based on the work with thousands of adolescents that we have carried out in the past decade.

Having this in mind, we have considered it important to present not only the characteristics of the modern adolescent, marking the differences between males and females, but also the typologies of interactions between the sexes during development. This might appear to be a shifting of attention towards problems relating to couples, but, actually, the reader must realize that dealing with adolescence while leaving out the sentimental aspects of interaction between the sexes would be like limiting oneself to knowing just one phase of the moon.

 

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