Thomas Hine is a journalist and
author of several books, and his history of the social role of American youth
is a useful, clearly written account in a somewhat journalistic style. The first three chapters address current
thought about teenagers from sociological, psychological, and anthropological
perspectives. Hine then turns to the
early settlement of North America and the roles that children and youth played
in the early days of an emerging nation.
The book then proceeds fairly swiftly in covering nearly 400 years of
American life. Facts and stories are
grouped together to give an account of different periods.
book provides is a sense of perspective on the concept of the teenager and the
expectations we place on young people today.
As he sums up in his last chapter, it is in fact very rare in history
for most people in their teens to be full time students deprived of the status
of adulthood. Children and young people
fought in wars, worked full time from early ages, and often started their own
families far earlier than they have in the twentieth century. It took major societal changes for the idea
of universal education for children to catch on, and the psychologization of
adolescence seeing those years as a beautiful and perilous time was
certainly a twentieth century phenomenon, particularly influenced by the work
of Granville Stanley Hall.
is a competent writer, the book lacks any strong organizing theme, and tends to
read like a collection of historical facts.
Although there is a useful bibliography, this is not a scholarly work. It is packed full of information, but for
the most part Hine leaves readers to draw their own conclusions concerning the
relevance the history of teenagers for our current worries. The book would be more compelling if Hine
did do more to draw connections between the past and the present I have to
confess I found the book a little hard to get through. But it is probably a helpful starting place
for those wanting some historical perspective on the apparent crises of teenage
life that beset our society today.
© 2002 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.
Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College,
Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review.
His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry.
He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can
play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help foster
communication between philosophers, mental health professionals,
and the general public.