Articles

In Search of Mr. Right

Odds are that the pulled-together young woman you encounter in the elevator, emerging from the gym, or riding the subway wearing sleek professional attire but no wedding ring is struggling to meet someone to spend her life with. The thirty-something woman of today is three times more likely to be single than her counterpart of the 1970s. Indeed, both women and men—particularly those with high levels of education—are staying single far longer into their adult years than in previous eras. For both groups this delayed search for a spouse is a deliberate choice, but the effect of that delay on the two sexes is dramatically different.

For men, the change in timing is merely an incidental matter with few repercussions. But for women, the delay makes the search more difficult, fraught with anxiety, and shadowed by the possibility of ultimate failure. It is this pervasive anxiety that explains the current popularity of such movies, television shows, and books as Bridget Jones’ Diary, Sex and the City, and Cowboys Are My Weakness, all of which feature thirty-something women struggling to find men.Read the entire article on The Atlantic Magazine

As many couples can attest — and lots of research backs this up — marital happiness plummets with the arrival of a baby. Sleepless nights, seemingly endless diaper changes and the avalanche of new chores that come with a newborn leave little time for the intimacies of marriage. It’s a situation ripe for mental stress and marital discord.

In fact, the strain is so well documented that, as the Wall Street Journal reportedearlier this year, a growing number of mental-health professionals now advise pre-emptive relationship counseling for expectant parents.Read the entire article on National Public Radio

Read the entire article on National Public Radio

From pregnancy on, parents often keep a stack of bedside reading full of advice on raising children — survival tips from the terrible toddler years through annoying adolescence. Los Angeles comedy writer Gail Parent figured she’d be done with all that once her kids turned the magical age of 21.

“Because I didn’t tell my parents anything bad or negative,” she says. “I let them be very peaceful about me when I was an adult. But I had told my kids to tell me everything when they were young.”Read the entire article on National Public Radio

All the Single Ladies

All the Single Ladies

Recent years have seen an explosion of male joblessness and a steep decline in men’s life prospects that have disrupted the “romantic market” in ways that narrow a marriage-minded woman’s options: increasingly, her choice is between deadbeats (whose numbers are rising) and playboys (whose power is growing). But this strange state of affairs also presents an opportunity: as the economy evolves, it’s time to embrace new ideas about romance and family—and to acknowledge the end of “traditional” marriage as society’s highest ideal.Read the entire article on The Atlantic Magazine

Emily Rapp is the author of “Poster Child: A Memoir,” and a professor of creative writing at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design.

Santa Fe, N.M.Read the entire article on The New York Times

Beautiful Brains

Moody. Impulsive. Maddening. Why do teenagers act the way they do? Viewed through the eyes of evolution, their most exasperating traits may be the key to success as adults.Read the entire article on National Geographic

WHEN WRITING about the decline of children’s free play, it’s difficult to avoid sounding as if you’re pining for an idealized past. I sympathize with readers who glaze over when they see a sentence that begins, “When I was a kid… .’’ They know what’s coming: “…we just played outside with no adult supervision, we didn’t need electronic gadgets to amuse us or coaches to tell us how to have fun, we didn’t worry about predators or bullies or other bogeymen that fearful parents obsess about these days,’’ and so on. But it’s worth finding a way around the clichés to engage the significant truths behind them, because the subject of kids’ play is important.

Free play isn’t an “extra’’ to be squeezed in between lessons, practices, and screen time. Free play, meaning an activity chosen and directed by the participants and undertaken for its own sake (and not, say, because an adult will give them some kind of credential for doing it), is what kids are designed to do.

Children, like many other young animals, learn by playing. As Peter Gray, a psychologist at Boston College who recently published an essay entitled “The Decline of Play and the Rise of Psychopathology in Children and Adolescents,’’ says, “Children come into the world ready to play. It’s part of human nature, which means that natural selection favors it. It has an important role in human survival.’’Read the entire article on The Boston Globe

THE event reminder on Melissa Weinblatt’s iPhone buzzed: 15 minutes till her shrink appointment.

She mixed herself a mojito, added a sprig of mint, put on her sunglasses and headed outside to her friend’s pool. Settling into a lounge chair, she tapped the Skype app on her phone. Hundreds of miles away, her face popped up on her therapist’s computer monitor; he smiled back on her phone’s screen.Read the entire article on The New York Times

Babies may look helpless, but as soon as they come into the world, they’re able to do a number of important things. They can recognize faces and moving objects. They’re attracted to language. And from very early on, they can differentiate their mother from other humans.

“They really come equipped to learn about the world in a way that wasn’t appreciated until recently,” says neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt. “It took scientists a long time to realize that their brains are doing some very complicated things.”

Aamodt and fellow neuroscientist Sam Wang explain how the human brain develops from infancy to adolescence in their new book, Welcome to Your Child’s Brain. The two researchers also offer tips for parents to help their children eat their spinach, learn their ABCs and navigate elementary school.Read the entire article on National Public Radio

FRANK SINATRA’S greatest hits album, filtered through the jet engine noise of the Varian linear accelerator, was not what I felt like hearing at 9 a.m. I made a mental note to bring a Steely Dan CD for my next appointment.

I was strapped to a hard metal sheet, and the technician had just bolted my head down using a black mask that had been heat-molded to the contours of my face. The sheet and I would slide first up and then back in an overhead arc that would send high-energy electrons into my head and neck from computerized data sets outlining my throat cancer and its spread into adjacent lymph nodes.

I wasn’t a doctor anymore. I was a patient.Read the entire article on The New York Times

A BEAUTIFUL woman lowers her eyes demurely beneath a hat. In an earlier era, her gaze might have signaled a mysterious allure. But this is a 2003 advertisement for Zoloft, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (S.S.R.I.) approved by the F.D.A. to treat social anxiety disorder. “Is she just shy? Or is it Social Anxiety Disorder?” reads the caption, suggesting that the young woman is not alluring at all. She is sick.

But is she?

It is possible that the lovely young woman has a life-wrecking form of social anxiety. There are people too afraid of disapproval to venture out for a job interview, a date or even a meal in public. Despite the risk of serious side effects — nausea, loss of sex drive, seizures — drugs like Zoloft can be a godsend for this group.Read the entire article on The New York Times

IF THERE’S ONE thing I learned in graduate school, it’s that the poet Philip Larkin was right. (“They fuck you up, your mum and dad, / They may not mean to, but they do.”) At the time, I was a new mom with an infant son, and I’d decided to go back to school for a degree in clinical psychology. With baby on the brain and term papers to write, I couldn’t ignore the barrage of research showing how easy it is to screw up your kids. Of course, everyone knows that growing up with “Mommy Dearest” produces a very different child from one raised by, say, a loving PTA president who has milk and homemade cookies waiting after school. But in that space between Joan Crawford and June Cleaver, where most of us fall, it seemed like a lot could go wrong in the kid-raising department.

As a parent, I wanted to do things right. But what did “right” mean? One look in Barnes & Noble’s parenting section and I was dizzy: child-centered, collaborative, or RIE? Brazelton, Spock, or Sears?

The good news, at least according to Donald Winnicott, the influential English pediatrician and child psychiatrist, was that you didn’t have to be a perfect mother to raise a well-adjusted kid. You just had to be, to use the term Winnicott coined, a “good-enough mother.” I was also relieved to learn that we’d moved beyond the concept of the “schizophrenogenic mother,” who’s solely responsible for making her kid crazy. (The modern literature acknowledges that genetics—not to mention fathers—play a role in determining mental health.) Still, in everything we studied—from John Bowlby’s “attachment theory” to Harry Harlow’s monkeys, who clung desperately to cloth dummies when separated from their mothers—the research was clear: fail to “mirror” your children, or miss their “cues,” or lavish too little affection on them, and a few decades later, if they had the funds and a referral, they would likely end up in one of our psychotherapy offices, on the couch next to a box of tissues, recounting the time Mom did this and Dad didn’t do that, for 50 minutes weekly, sometimes for years.Read the entire article on The Atlantic Magazine

Neoliberalism sucks the brains out of a generation.

A cultural shift is happening on university campuses across North America. Students are lining up for mental health services faster than they can be treated. This shift is defining a generation and marks a profound change in the mental environment on campuses today. There was a time not so long ago when students used to reach out for help with a particular life crisis: a broken relationship, the death of a loved one, difficulty with a major decision. Today, however, students are complaining that their life is the crisis, an all-pervasive sense of bleakness about themselves and their future that didn’t exist a generation ago. This transition from the incidental to the total is nothing short of a socialized paradigm shift, one that has transformed higher learning from a space of exploration and freedom to a prison of the mind. Fueled by stress, anxiety, pressure and competition, many of today’s students are struggling not only to learn but also to survive.

Dr. Erika Horwitz, associate director of health counseling services at one of Canada’s largest undergraduate universities, Simon Fraser, said the hypercompetitive environment at universities where students are pitted against each other in a perceived zero-sum game for fewer and fewer jobs, is pushing a generation of youth to the edge.Read the entire article on AdBusters

One August morning nearly two decades ago, my mother woke me and put me in a cab. She handed me a jacket. “Baka malamig doon” were among the few words she said. (“It might be cold there.”) When I arrived at the Philippines’ Ninoy Aquino International Airport with her, my aunt and a family friend, I was introduced to a man I’d never seen. They told me he was my uncle. He held my hand as I boarded an airplane for the first time. It was 1993, and I was 12.

My mother wanted to give me a better life, so she sent me thousands of miles away to live with her parents in America — my grandfather (Lolo in Tagalog) and grandmother (Lola). After I arrived in Mountain View, Calif., in the San Francisco Bay Area, I entered sixth grade and quickly grew to love my new home, family and culture. I discovered a passion for language, though it was hard to learn the difference between formal English and American slang. One of my early memories is of a freckled kid in middle school asking me, “What’s up?” I replied, “The sky,” and he and a couple of other kids laughed. I won the eighth-grade spelling bee by memorizing words I couldn’t properly pronounce. (The winning word was “indefatigable.”)

One day when I was 16, I rode my bike to the nearby D.M.V. office to get my driver’s permit. Some of my friends already had their licenses, so I figured it was time. But when I handed the clerk my green card as proof of U.S. residency, she flipped it around, examining it. “This is fake,” she whispered. “Don’t come back here again.”Read the entire article on The New York Times

 

In 1995, when they bought their home in Medway, Julie and Tim Dennehy decided not to get a television for their bedroom because they didn’t want to be so “plugged in.’’Read the entire article on The Boston Globe

MY friend sat down and ordered a stiff drink. I didn’t think of her as the stiff-drink kind. An hour later, after our spouses drifted off into conversation, she leaned over the table. “I need your help,” she said. “My sister has a brain tumor. I don’t know what to do.”

Three years ago this month, I learned that I had a seven-inch osteosarcomain my left femur. Put more directly: I had bone cancer. That diagnosis led me down a dark year that included nine months of chemotherapy and a 15-hour surgery to reconstruct my left leg.

At the time, my wife, Linda, and I were the parents of 3-year-old identical twin girls, and we were often overwhelmed with the everyday challenges of having a sick dad, a working mom and two preschoolers. We survived with help from many people. Our siblings organized an online casserole club, so friends could buy us dinner through a meal service. Grandparents rotated in and out of our basement. My high school classmates made a video at our reunion.Read the entire article on The New York Times

The “pursuit of happiness’’ has been something Americans have valued ever since the Founding Fathers inserted it into the Declaration of Independence. Yet some psychologists now question whether happiness is, indeed, a worthwhile goal, since new findings suggest the pursuit could actually make us more unhappy.

In a review paper published last week in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, researchers define what they call the “dark side of happiness’’: feeling happy all the time can destroy relationships and careers, while avidly pursuing happiness is bound to lead to disappointment.

While some of us may envy those manic folks at the extreme end of the cheerful spectrum, they often have the same level of dysfunction as a person who’s too sad, some recent studies suggest. They may completely tune out sad events around them like, say, their spouse being laid off or a parent dying.Read the entire article on The Boston Globe

It starts in childhood: As every kindergartner learns, getting along with others is a practical virtue. From our earliest years, we start to absorb lessons of diplomacy and tact, all meant to help us navigate our surroundings without friction. Down the road, as grown-ups, we seek harmony at home and in the office. Couples who project tranquility are envied, and an unflappable attitude is often a job requirement. Fighting, meanwhile, is perceived as corrosive and stressful.

But what if we’re thinking about fighting wrong? What if, as counterintuitive as it seems, certain kinds of fighting are good for us? In a new paper drawn from the Early Years of Marriage study at the University of Michigan, which tracked newly married couples over 16 years, researchers examined whether conflict behaviors beyond obvious destructive patterns (shouting, name-calling) would predict divorce. Surprisingly, couples that included even one spouse who withdrew from fights using popular strategies like leaving a room to cool down had higher rates of divorce. When both partners found ways to hash out conflicts directly, they were far more likely to prevail.

As the study of conflict gains traction, researchers are examining which conflict dynamics might enhance our daily lives and how the right kinds of conflict may have merit on their own. At home, it appears, a resilient fighter can help a partner overcome a difficult childhood; at work, research is showing that more tolerance for anger can make for a more productive team.Read the entire article on The Boston Globe

Quick quiz. Which leaves you feeling more content?Read the entire article on The Boston Globe

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