|Basic InformationMore InformationLatest NewsLinksBook Reviews|100 Things Guys Need to Know3 NBS of Julian DrewA Guide to Asperger SyndromeA Tribe ApartA User Guide to the GF/CF Diet for Autism, Asperger Syndrome and AD/HDA Walk in the Rain With a BrainAdolescence and Body ImageAdolescent DepressionAfterAggression and Antisocial Behavior in Children and AdolescentsAll Alone in the UniverseAmelia RulesAmericaAnother PlanetAntisocial Behavior in Children and AdolescentsArtemis FowlAssessment and Treatment of Childhood Problems, Second EditionAutistic Spectrum DisordersBad GirlBetween Two WorldsBeyond AppearanceBeyond Diversity DayBig Mouth & Ugly GirlBill HensonBipolar DisordersBody Image, Eating Disorders, and ObesityBody Image, Eating Disorders, and Obesity in YouthBoyBoysBrandedBreaking PointBreathing UnderwaterBringing Up ParentsBullying and TeasingCan't Eat, Won't EatCatalystChild and Adolescent Psychological DisordersChildren Changed by TraumaChildren with Emerald EyesChildrenís Dreaming and the Development of Consciousness City of OneConcise Guide to Child and Adolescent PsychiatryConquering the Beast WithinContentious IssuesCrackedCutDancing in My NuddypantsDemystifying the Autistic ExperienceDescartes' BabyDilemmas of DesireDirtyDoing ItDoing SchoolDying to Be ThinEating an ArtichokeEducating Children With AutismElijah's CupEllison the ElephantEmerald City BluesEmotional and Behavioral Problems of Young ChildrenEvery Girl Tells a StoryFast GirlsFeather BoyFiregirlForever YoungFreaks, Geeks and Asperger SyndromeFreewillGeography ClubGeorgia Under WaterGirl in the MirrorGirlfightingGirlsourceGirlWiseGLBTQGood GirlsGoodbye RuneGranny Torrelli Makes SoupGrowing Up GirlHandbook for BoysHealing ADDHeartbeatHelping Children Cope With Disasters and TerrorismHelping Parents, Youth, and Teachers Understand Medications for Behavioral and Emotional ProblemsHollow KidsHow Children Learn the Meanings of WordsHow to Keep Your Teenager Out of Trouble and What to Do If You Can'tHug MeIntrusive ParentingIt's Me!It's Perfectly NormalJake RileyJoey Pigza Swallowed the KeyJuvenile-Onset SchizophreniaKeeping the MoonKilling MonstersKim: Empty InsideKnocked Out by My Nunga-NungasLaura Numeroff's 10-Step Guide to Living with Your MonsterLearning About School ViolenceLeo the Lightning BugLet Kids Be KidsLiberation's ChildrenLife As We Know ItLisa, Bright and DarkLittle ChicagoLord of the FliesLoserLove and SexLove That DogManicMastering Anger and AggressionMind FieldsMiss American PieMom, Dad, I'm Gay.MonsterMore Than a LabelMyths of ChildhoodNew Hope for Children and Teens with Bipolar DisorderNo Two AlikeNot Much Just Chillin'Odd Girl OutOdd Girl Speaks OutOn the Frontier of AdulthoodOne Hot SecondOne in ThirteenOphelia SpeaksOphelia's MomOur Journey Through High Functioning Autism and Asperger SyndromeOut of the DustOvercoming School AnxietyParenting and the Child's WorldParenting Your Out-Of-Control TeenagerPediatric PsychopharmacologyPeriod PiecesPhobic and Anxiety Disorders in Children and AdolescentsPINSPraising Boys WellPraising Girls WellPretty in PunkPrincess in the SpotlightProblem Child or Quirky Kid?Psychotherapy As PraxisPsychotherapy for Children and AdolescentsRaising a Self-StarterRaising BlazeRaising Resilient ChildrenReclaiming Our ChildrenRedressing the EmperorReducing Adolescent RiskRethinking ADHDReweaving the Autistic TapestryRineke DijkstraRitalin is Not the Answer Action GuideRunning on RitalinSay YesSexual Teens, Sexual MediaSexuality in AdolescenceShooterShort PeopleShould I Medicate My Child?Skin GameSmackSmashedStaying Connected to Your TeenagerStick FigureStoner & SpazStop Arguing with Your KidsStraight Talk about Your Child's Mental HealthStrong, Smart, & BoldStudent DepressionSurvival Strategies for Parenting Children with Bipolar DisorderSurviving OpheliaTaking Charge of ADHD, Revised EditionTaming the Troublesome ChildTargeting AutismTeaching Problems and the Problems of TeachingTeen Angst? NaaahThat SummerThe American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook Of Child And Adolescent PsychiatryThe Arctic IncidentThe Bipolar ChildThe Buffalo TreeThe Bully, the Bullied, and the BystanderThe Carnivorous CarnivalThe Depressed ChildThe Developing MindThe Dragons of AutismThe Dream BearerThe Dulcimer Boy The Einstein SyndromeThe EpidemicThe Eternity CubeThe Explosive ChildThe Field of the DogsThe First IdeaThe Identity TrapThe Inside Story on Teen GirlsThe Little TernThe Mean Girl MotiveThe Men They Will BecomeThe Myth of LazinessThe New Gay TeenagerThe Notebook GirlsThe Nurture AssumptionThe Opposite of InvisibleThe Order of the Poison OakThe Other ParentThe Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday LifeThe Real Truth About Teens and SexThe Rise and Fall of the American TeenagerThe Secret Lives of GirlsThe Sex Lives of TeenagersThe Shared HeartThe Spider and the BeeThe StepsThe Thought that CountsThe Unhappy ChildThe Vile VillageThe Whole ChildThen Again, Maybe I Won'tTherapy with ChildrenThings I Have to Tell YouTouching Spirit BearTrauma in the Lives of ChildrenTreacherous LoveTrue BelieverTwistedUnhappy TeenagersWay to Be!We're Not MonstersWhat about the KidsWhat Would Joey Do?What's Happening to My Body? Book for BoysWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for GirlsWhen Nothing Matters AnymoreWhen Sex Goes to SchoolWhen Your Child Has an Eating DisorderWhere The Kissing Never StopsWhose America?Why Are You So Sad?WinnicottWorried All the TimeYes, Your Teen Is Crazy!You Hear MeYoung People and Mental HealthYour Child, Bully or Victim?
by Patricia Hersch
Ballantine Books, 1998
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Apr 22nd 2003
Patricia Hersch spent several years
of the early 1990s talking with many middle and high school students in her
hometown of Reston, Virginia, getting to know them and understand their
experience. She distils her experience
down to the stories of eight young people and their friends and families,
leading up to the high school graduation in 1994. A Tribe Apart is an important book not because it contains
new ideas –she herself points to many reports by government agencies and
independent institutions whose analyses of the problems of adolescence she
echoes – but rather because she makes her case so powerfully through her
accounts of the teenagers whose lives she describes.
At the end of her book, Hersch
summarizes some of her main themes. Not
enough children participate in school activities, and they turn to dangerous
ways of entertaining themselves.
Adolescents have formed their own culture that is increasingly distinct
from the rest of culture. Hersch argues
that students need parents, teachers, and other adults to be more involved in
their lives. It is not enough to give
them more lessons on the dangers of drugs, sex, or antisocial activities. The fundamental problem is not that naïve
teens are led astray by a few black sheep; most teens are quite capable of
thinking for themselves, and they often do give their actions considerable
thought. We need a more sophisticated
understanding of why adolescents make the decisions they do, and through her
detailed pictures of their lives, Hersch gives her readers a good idea of how
it goes down. Drugs and alcohol are
readily available, and many people they know use them. Many children and teenagers are engaged in
sexual activity, and most teenagers have ample opportunity. Given their options and their social
situations, there are great temptations for adolescents to experiment, and
sometimes they enjoy their experiences.
Many of them have bad relationships with their parents and turn to
drugs, alcohol and sex as emotional release.
They experience great pressure to succeed, but they do not receive
strong social and emotional support from their communities.
In setting out the lives of these
eight young people, Hersch chronicles instances of risky behavior, drinking,
taking drugs, skipping classes, driving while intoxicated, getting in bad
relationships, selling drugs, arguing with parents, having sex when drunk or
high and later regretting it, teen pregnancy, mental illness, and suicide
attempts. Our society increasingly
medicalizes risky behavior by young people, treating it as symptomatic of
mental disorder, and this may be a good way of helping those people at risk. Yet it can also lead us to ignore the social
causes of these problems, and one of the central problems Hersch identifies
through her accounts are parents who neglect or abuse their children. She gets her information from the children
and teens and hears their side of the story far more than she hears the other
side, and so one might be concerned that her account is biased towards their
viewpoints, but it is nevertheless shocking how some parents treat their
children as a burden or effectively ignore them altogether. One often hears that young people have no
sense of responsibility, and one might conclude from Hersch's study that they
learn this from their parents.
It is worth emphasizing that
Hersch's study does not focus on families at the margins of society. Her subjects are mostly from the large
middle-class. Most are white, although
she does include African-American and Hispanic families. She does not pretend that her findings are
automatically generalizable to the rest of American society, but readers will
probably find these stories fit with their own knowledge of their local
communities, across the United States.
Hersch explains in the preface to the paperback edition that she found
after the release of her book that she was in much demand to speak on
television shows in the wake of the various well-publicized cases of shootings
by students of their peers and teachers.
Her analysis does help to explain the moral vacuum students experience
that could make such shootings possible.
However, A Tribe Apart will be more relevant to parents, teachers
and researchers who want to have a clearer idea of what it is like to be an
ordinary teenager in America today. It
does not supply any simple solutions to the problems of adolescence today, but
it could be a valuable resource for those seeking to tackle these issues. Highly recommended.
© 2003 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.
Christian Perring, Ph.D., is
Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island, and editor
of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on philosophical
issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.