The Normalization of Neglect in American Parenting
The latest episode of Girlboss, Interrupted just dropped, and it’s a spicy one.
In a healthy society, would everyone and their mother need a complicated cocktail of uppers and downers just to get through the day? Of course not, and we obviously don’t live in a healthy society. Around 13% of Americans take antidepressants, and their use is growing around the world. The long-term use of the drugs is also increasing, year after year. In 2000, around 5 million Americans had been taking antidepressants for five years or more. By 2018, this had increased to 15.5 million. At the same point, almost 25 million adults had been taking antidepressants for more than two years, a 60 percent increase from 2010.
In her fantastic and seminal book Being There, clinical psychologist Erica Komisar notes an increase in violence, bullying, and eating disorders among children and teenagers, as well as the use of generic drugs for psychiatric disorders jumping to 20% in recent years.
So why is it that psychological brokenness has become the air we breathe? Whether you’re trying to understand someone on the personal level, or human behavior in general, a legitimate course of inquiry would begin in childhood. Komisar writes:
Why is this happening to our children? One key factor, I believe is that because so many of us are ambitiously pursuing our own individual needs, we forget how we evolved as social creatures. Too often, mothers are putting their work and their own needs ahead of their children’s. I know this issue is a very controversial one–so controversial, in fact, that few dare to address it. Collegues and researchers write about children and their primary caregivers and won’t use the word mother. Clinicians are reluctant to make direct correlations publicly between an emotionally disengaged or physically absent mother and a child’s personality, social functioning, and even mental illness, but that is what we discuss as clinicians among ourselves.
In this episode of the pod, Going Godward, Twitter aphorist and child therapist, makes the third rail connection that Komisar has laid out. Mass maternal absence, branded sweetly as women’s economic liberation, has become a crisis of neglect that the children feel deeply and respond in kind, but are then are medicated into oblivion when those responses are too much to handle.