I remember watching some television program (probably Law and Order) in which a man was questioning a couple of boys about something or other. One of the boys mentioned how pissed and stressed he was. The man rolled his eyes in mocking distaste and snapped "What the fuck does a fifteen-year-old have to be stressed about?!".
You'd be surprised.
Something that annoys the fuck out of me is how adults say that kids in school have it easy. "These are the best years of your life; when you get to be our age, you'll be wishing to go back!" "You have nothing to complain about! Wait until you're struggling with the bills, then you'll realize how lucky you are!" "What do you have to worry about? You're just a kid! When you get into the real world, you'll want to come crawling back to this age."
You sure about that?
In the United States (I cannot speak for other nations), there has been a great increase in mental disorder diagnoses: Attention Deficit (Hyper) Disorder is highly ubiquitous amongst the American youth, bulimia and anorexia are unfortunately afflicting a lot of young persons (especially females), Autism is on the rise, cutting addictions and depression is sadly a lot more common than they were in years past (or at least they're reported more often). It is always important to take into consideration that mental health in the United States is VERY different than what it was just three, four decades ago. What we Americans (I'm not up to date on where other countries stand on this) now consider Autism was once the wierd, quiet kid in the 1970's, what now is considered Bipolar Disorder was just classified as someone being an intolerable, overemotional bitch. Despite these examples, I believe that there has been legitimate increases in mental issues. What am I basing that statement off of? Nothing.
Nothing other than assumption. What? At least I'm being honest.
The diet of the average American has changed greatly these past few decades and I honestly believe that that is one of the main causes in the increase of mental issues. What makes me say that? Well, think about it this way: American crops and livestock are pumped with hormones in order to make the food item grow faster and larger. In addition to hormones, the raw food product is injected with antibiotics and in the case of plants, sprayed with pesticides. Along with the hormones, chemicals, preservatives, and artificial items (dyes, high fructose corn syrup) are thrown into the food as well. When a pregnant woman eats, will not those altercations affect her delicate, still forming fetus? Will that extra estrogen not cause her baby's brain to develop differently? Will not those pesticides and antibiotics affect her baby's development? I'm not a doctor, I'm not a scientist, and I can't name any scientific and medicinal professionals/resources off the top of my head that supports my hypothesis, but I believe that those factors do affect the fetus, and by extension everyone who was once a fetus.
It seems that stress is the only motherfucking way that Americans, Japanese, and South Koreans know how to live (in comparison to First World Europeans). While American students boast one of the longest summer breaks, we can also boast one of the heavier homework loads. Apparently, Japanese students are kind of socially obligated to attend these schools called cram schools in which they receive even more instruction. I don't know where South Korean students stand, but I think it might be a mix between cram school and homework. Now American students can have anywhere from two to four or more hours of homework daily, as well as big homework assignments on weekends (sometimes I would have six hours of homework to do
). In addition to the large homework load, American students are socially obligated to be in one or two after school activities, like sports, the arts, a job, volunteer work, and added academic routines. The added activities cause American students to be released at 17:00 or 18:00. Not come home, be RELEASED from their obligations.
My middle/high school often hosted foreign exchange students (there was just something about the close proximity to Disneyland and lack of gang violence that just drew the foreigners) and there was one South Korean girl, Si-wan (I must have spelt her name wrong) who said that she went to cram school and would come home at like 20:00.
I'm fairly certain that such ridiculous hours are common amongst Japanese and South Korean students. Japanese and South Koreans if I'm wrong, please tell me. Also, Japanese students have school on Saturdays.
Along with the heavy workloads, the quest for perfection is highly prevalent in the American and Asian cultures. Whereas Asian cultures are more focused on more academics, Americans factor in appearance, and not just body-wise, but also the appearance of success and happiness. In Asian countries, that kid better be getting straight A's and 100%'s on their assignments, in the US, that kid better be in AP classes or the IB program (honors classes are for lightweight, pansy-ass bitches), be on the varsity basketball team, be in vocal all-state, and look smokin' hot and happy. Naturally, these heavy loads cause Japanese, South Korean, and American kids to break down. South Korean and Japanese kids commit suicide, American kids indulge in self-destructive behaviors and maybe commit suicide.
And we pick all this up from our parents. How so? Because Japanese, South Korean, and American workers work the longest hours of any other developed nation and I think we have the least amount of benefits along with the shortest amount of vacation time. Our parents live stressful lives so we pick that up from them. In addition to the learned behavior, our parents are (usually) the ones who push to be perfect because they feel it's the best for us, and we do it because we love them and want to see them proud of us. So tell me parents of South Korea, the US, and Japan: does it make you happy to see us coming home after ten or more hours of work every day? Does it make you happy that we drop to our beds the first moment we get? Jeez, it would get so bad that sometimes I wouldn't even talk to my parents fro a couple of days not because I wanted to ignore them or vice versa, but because I had so much work to do and the moment I finished, I would just fall asleep exhausted.
Are the lives of the kids of 2010 more stressful than that of the past? Well, it's tough to say. After all, I do not think stress was taken as seriously as it is now so people were stressed they just didn't know when that terminology was appropriate to use, plus, I would imagine stress mainly applied to males who worked, not their stay-at-home wives or their children. However, I'm not a psychologist so don't quote me on that. I'm going to say that yes, the lives of kids of 2010 is more difficult than that of the past in the stress department.
One thing that the American kids of 2010 do win in (hands down) is how broken our lives are. The divorce rate is estimated to be as high as fifty percent in the US and a lot of children are being reared in single-parent homes. Though the divorce rate and the amount of single-parent families is a major factor, the term "broken" also encompasses the interaction between family members. Like I mentioned a paragraph ago, sometimes I wouldn't speak a word to my parents for days at a time simply because I was too tired or busy, and the same thing with them. Our schedules were also pretty screwy. By the time I woke up, my parents had already left for work (bear in mind I woke up at 6:15) and by the time I got home, they still weren't home (bear in mind I usually got home at 17:00). We didn't eat together because it just wasn't possible. By the time I got home, I would wolf down something other and start doing homework. My dad came home next and he would wolf down something or other and start watching tv. My mom got home last and she didn't always eat (she was so stressed that she just couldn't find her appetite sometimes).
Part II of the familial interactions includes the emotional strength of the family. I make it no secret that my family was dysfunctional. My sister has a pretty nasty case of Bipolar Disorder and that just made our lives hell. Because of how difficult she was, I decided to make myself the exact opposite of a problem child for my parents: I never came to them with problems, I never talked in depth about my day ("My day was okay" was not an indepth answer), I never opened up to them about anything, I asked them if they needed anything, and when they needed to rant, I was all ears. Other than that, I just went in my room and pretended not to exist (okay, not the last part, but you get the jist). Does that sound like a healthy parent-child relationship? My relationship with my sister was just contrived and painful. Bipolar Disorder or not, having someone say for years "I hate you", "I want to see you suffer", "I want to kill you", "I want to strangle and stab you in your sleep" at you, and then seeing her drive your dad out of the house, cause your mother to be so frazzled that she isn't even eating or sleeping, and inviting hoodlums in your home kinda sucks.
The sad thing is that my experiences are nothing in comparison to what others have gone through because even though I distanced myself from my parents to protect them from further stress, they never hurt me and did everything they could to provide for me. Some kids don't even have that. Some kids come home to "God, you're fucking worthless, why don't you just go die?!" and worse straight out of their Mama's mouth. Some kids come home to beatings and one-sided fist fights with their dads. Some kids have to have sex with their legal guardian or else their younger sibling gets fucked. Some kids don't have the luxury of a beautiful two-story house with fully functioning everything like I did. I'm not saying that abuse and broken homes didn't exist in the past, but with the decrease in overall wealth for American (lower incomes=tougher lives) and the increase in divorce rates, broken lives are painfully common.
To the sirrah who said "What the fuck does a fifteen-year-old have to be stressed about?!", you'd be surprised dude.
The increase in mental disorders, the quest for perfection, the high divorce rates and higher poverty rates can cause those fifteen-year-olds to be stressed in ways you take for granted.
When I was fifteen, I silently broke down. I slipped into bed and began to sob and hyperventilate uncontrollably. I just felt so alone. I didn't dare tell my parents any of my problems because they had enough of their own with their atrocious work hours, pitiful pay, and my sister. I would go days on end without speaking to a single soul about me or how I was doing. School was so hard with all the homework and expectations. It was hard to go to school and it was even more agonizing to come home to a place where I literally feared for my life and wondered every. Single. Day, "Will I live to see the sunrise? Will I live to see the sunset?" I just couldn't take it any more and I broken down and cried and cried and cried, unable to breathe properly because my despair and loneliness was crushing me. No one held me or came to my rescue and said "It's going to be okay, I promise". No one knew or saw what happened to me that night. I fell asleep crying and screaming in my mind for someone, ANYONE to just be with me. No one did. The next morning, I got up at 6:15 like always, didn't kiss either my parents good bye because they had already left, went to school like nothing had occurred. After all, when someone breaks down and no one is there to witness it, did it ever really happen?
But I digress, I guess the question of "Do kids have it harder now than in the past?" is really too difficult to answer. Yes, there are factors now that didn't exist a few decades ago, but there are factors from a few decades ago that don't exist now. The definition and acknowledgement of stress and depression has also changed these past decades, so it is entirely unsurprising that kids did feel stressed and depressed but had their problems brushed aside and untreated. To be quite frank, I'm going to assume that the American youth of 2010 have it tougher than American youth of previous decades. I can only say as much because this time period is all I know and even if I did question adults about their teenaged years, they will invariably be blinded by their myopia.