Youth and Authority 4

The truth is that whatever we feel about the political aspects of these issues, young people do face real difficulties in making the adjustment from childhood to adulthood. They do not have the old consensus about the appropriate role of authority. Their family lives are likely to be fragmented, their expectations are likely to be higher and not always achievable. It is perhaps less often acknowledged, however, that whilst young people may have a difficult time making this adjustment, authority has a difficult time as well.

Take the predicament of parents as par t of the authority structure. As parents, we too live in a society where we have greater expectations for individual happiness, and many of these expectations are focussed in the marriage. High expectations lead in due course to disappointments that the rewards of marriage cannot come without also paying the price in terms of the pain and difficulty of intimate relationships. Of course for some this disappointment is such that the marriage breaks down and divorce ensues. The hope for happiness still survives however and can find expression in new marriages and in this way new and complex forms of family relationships are created. Children growing up face this intensely confusing and complicated authority structure, with parents and step-parents often in conflict with each other. Certainly our experience in the Divorce Courts (sic) reflects the problems children have in these circumstances, but we also encounter the intense distress of the parents. Of course, the link between divorce and delinquency is well established.1

1Well, perhaps not quite so simply as this paper suggests in retrospect!

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