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Hurried child syndrome

3 / 5. 1

Hurried child syndrome

Category: Definition Essay

Subcategory: Sociology

Level: College

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Hurried Child Syndrome
This paper addresses the ‘hurried child syndrome’, a condition described by Elkind (2001) as ‘‘a set of stress-linked behaviors, which result when a child is expected by his parents to perform well beyond his or her level of mental, social or emotional capabilities. Parents over-schedule their children’s lives, push them hard for academic success, and expect them to behave and act like miniature adults’’ (p.165).It discusses the dynamics of hurrying children, the negative sociological impacts of hurrying children and also recommends on what parents can do to avoid falling for the trap of the hurried child syndrome. The paper relies mostly on secondary research studies and existing scholarly work and appreciates that most of the work on this subject is based on North America. An attempt is made to explore international perspectives of the subject in other parts of the world.
In the world today, everything is competitive and fast paced. People want instant success and achievement in everything they do. Parents, also, want their children to excel in all aspects of their lives. To achieve this, parents have structured their children’s time to the extent that children have far less time to ‘just be children’. They have scheduled time for school, competitions and games but have no time to play with their friends, to sit and watch cartoons or just lazy about as is expected of them at their age. Children are pressured to learn to count or even read before they can walk, to outperform other children in school, to be self-sufficient and productive. This leads to a situation where children are fashioned as mini-adults, adopting behaviors and temperaments characteristic of adults at a very tender age leading to stress related syndromes, often referred to as the ‘hurried child syndrome.’
Dynamics of hurrying children
It is important to note that parents are not the only ones that are guilty of hurrying children. According to Elkind (2001), schools, the media, the internet and other emerging technology are increasingly playing a significant role in exacerbating the problem. The factory model of our school systems that ignores the fact that children have different learning abilities puts pressure on children to attain academic achievement. The exposure that children have of sexually explicit material on television and the internet means that children experience things that are not appropriate of their age and this result in early maturity.
Impact of the hurried child syndrome
One of the main symptoms of the hurried child syndrome is stress. Stress-induced psychological problems such as irritability, depression; sleep problems, low self-esteem, and problems getting along with others are some of the problems attributed to this syndrome (Elkind, 2001). Physical symptoms may include diarrhea, headache, stomach ache, bed wetting among others. The presence of these symptoms should be an alarm to parents that they need to slow down on their demands to their children.
Perhaps the most important negative impacts of the hurried child syndrome are the sociological effects. While the intention of parents is to ensure that their children grow up to be mature, responsible and successful individuals, studies indicate that in most cases the reverse is true. The hurried child syndrome has been associated with increased cases of alcohol and drug abuse amongst teenagers, school crime, teenage pregnancies, and suicidal tendencies among adolescents and teenagers. For instance, while in the 60’s only ten percent of teenage girls were sexually active, the numbers have since grown and it’s now estimated that a paltry ten percent will leave their teens as virgins, with forty percent of the sexually active teenagers at risk of getting pregnant (Elkind, 2001). Drugs and substance abuse is now considered a leading cause of death among teenagers while cases of suicidal tendencies are on the rise. This is not-withstanding the efforts that parents expend in ensuring that their children are busy engaging in ‘helpful ‘activities and therefore ‘keeping off’ bad practices.
According to Elkind (2001), the long run consequence of ‘hurrying children’ is that the society will be faced with a burden of many more adults that need social support and fewer productive adults. This is because, children that are forced to mature before their time are mostly confused and anxious about their self, lack self-confidence and at the end of it all, do not make the best of adults as opposed to secure and protected children. This situation calls for a lot of government spending on social amenities, support centers, and civil education which is a costly affair for any government since the problem is not one-off, but rather a continuing challenge.
The hurried child is characterized by intelligent, stimulating activities such as games, sports and learning activities; the downside of this is that intellectual achievement is not necessarily linked to success, especially in today’s world that is driven by a service economy (Elkind, 2001). Other skills such as Communication and interpersonal skills are gaining more relevance, and this has led to an influx of many intelligent adults who have problems fitting in the modern work or entrepreneurial environment due to their lack of the required social skills. Perspectives of the hurried child syndrome
In their work, ‘The “Hurried” Child: Myth vs. Reality’, Hofferth, et al (2008) noted that while in developed world, the main cause of the syndrome is exposure of children to too many activities with the aim of making them better, smarter and more intelligent, the cause of the problem differs in developing world. In parts of Africa and Asia where some families is in a dire economic situation, young children are forced to drop out of school to look for work so as to support their struggling parents. Others are forced to take care of their siblings as their families are not able to pay for the services of nannies. The above activities do not age appropriate and, therefore, lead to stress in children, sometimes resulting in many undesired consequences such as teenage pregnancies and drugs use. As a result of the rising number of dysfunctional families and marital conflicts in developing countries, children are greatly exposed to blatant marital abuse between their parents, sometimes even affecting them psychologically. This has led to large numbers of children leaving their homes to stay in the streets and therefore forced to fend for themselves at a very tender age.
What should be done?
The above observations notwithstanding, behavioral scientists observe that involving children in various activities has its benefits if done in moderation. Children involvement in sports, games and learning activities could lead to the development of the child’s intellectual capacity, improvement of people skills and also build their self-esteem. Parents just need to understand the child’s age-appropriate activities and expose them to such activities in moderation (Dunn, Kinney & Hofferth, 2003). For instance, if a child is expected to learn how to speak depending on their age, then the parent can play an active role in teaching words, reading, and speaking.
According to Elkind (2001), parents need to exercise parental authority and let children be just that, children. They need to remember that children may act up as adults, appear to be self-reliant and all but they are just children and are not as sophisticated as they appear. They have limitations regarding their emotional and psychological as well as cognitive development and should, therefore, not be expected to engage in activities that are not age-appropriate. They should let their children play uninterrupted and not attempt to direct what needs to be done (Ginsburg, 2006).
Parents should also conduct themselves in a manner that does not expose their children to unnecessary adult stress-inducing behaviors such as fights, abuse and such like family issues (Alwin, 2001). It is wrong for parents to fight or argue before their children since this affects the children, who may feel that they have an obligation to take sides and help their parents, and yet they do not have the physical or the emotional capacity to do so.
Parents should also not expose their children to burdening behavior such as availing alcohol to them or allowing teenage children to go out with their friends of the opposite sex without supervision. Parents should learn to say ‘no’ to behaviors that they deem to be too advanced for their children, as this also brings a sense of caring on the part of the parent.
In conclusion, parents need to learn that childhood is an important part of growth and should not be rushed at all. They should also remember that it’s not possible to accelerate the emotional maturation of children without the resultant negative aspects such as the hurried child syndrome. For children to grow up to be responsible, successful and dependable adults, they need care during their childhood and understanding, support and encouragement during their adolescence and adulthood.
Alwin, D. F. (2001).Parental values, beliefs, and behavior: A review and promulga for research into the new century. New York: Elsevier Science.
Dunn, J. S., Kinney, D. A., & Hofferth, S. L. (2003). Parental ideologies and children’s after school activities. American Behavioral Scientist, 46(10), 1359-1386.
Elkind, D. (2001). The hurried child. Cambridge, MA: Perseus.
Ginsburg, K. R. (2006). The Importance of play in promoting healthy child development and maintaining strong parent-child bonds (Clinical Report). Chicago, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.
Hofferth,S. et al (2008). The “Hurried” Child: Myth vs. Reality. Maryland Population Research Center. Retrieved from: http://papers.ccpr.ucla.edu/papers/PWP-MPRC-2008-005/PWP-MPRC-2008-005.pdf

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