re: Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More than Peers by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté
C (freshman in college & home for Christmas) has been very interested in the Neufeld discussions Ed and I have been having.
The other night we were trying to figure out whether Neufeld would consider C's friends to be adult-oriented. We all thought he would. C is an adult-oriented teen and all of his friends are adult-oriented teens. One of C's friends is very adult-oriented, as a matter of fact, to the point that he specifically wants to chat with Ed and me when he and C. get together.
So then we were trying to figure out why some kids are adult-oriented when so many aren't. It's certainly not as if any of us set out to raise adult-oriented kids on purpose, or even knew there was an 'adult-oriented' option on the menu.
C. thought about it for a while, and then said that "only children" are more peer-oriented than children with brothers and sisters.
That was a shock. In my day, "only children" were presumed to be adult-oriented. Obviously we didn't have the term "adult-oriented," but we had the concept, at least where "only children" were concerned. Pace Neufeld, nobody thought the adult-orientation of "only children" was a good thing...
Assuming C. is right (I have no way of knowing), it strikes me that the explanation may be the changed culture children and teens (and adults) live in. Neufeld argues, and I agree, that our culture fosters peer orientation.
Although the cultural changes Neufeld describes were already happening when I was young, it's probably easier, today, for an 'only child' to become peer-oriented than it was when I was growing up. Parents don't have the same gravitational pull they used to, and even an 'only child' can escape their obit.
Children who have siblings are subject to the same peer pressures, but peer pressure does not eliminate sibling rivalry. Any child who has a brother or a sister must compete with that sibling for the parent's love, and the competition for the parent's love makes the parent more important.
Are siblings a protective factor in a peer-oriented youth culture?
I think it's possible.