Normal Development of the Child without the Phenomenon of “Adolescence”

June 22, 2023

The phenomenon “adolescence”, with its crises and problems, is typical of modern society and practically did not exist before. Paul Landis, in his book Adolescence and Youth: The Process of Maturing, says that in a traditional system:

The child grows up in the tradition of the family, taking over the family occupation, maintaining throughout his lifetime the family occupational status. A youth knows what he is born to and makes the adjustment more or less naturally and unconsciously. But in our kind of society no youth knows what he is born to.15

Philippe Aries, an important 20th century French medievalist and historian of the family and childhood, further elucidates this matter in Social History of the Child and of the Family:

This phenomenon was born of Wagnerian Germany and later spread to France around the 1900s. The young people, then adolescents, were to become a topic for the literature of the day and a concern to moralists and politicians.…From then on, adolescence would expand by pushing childhood backwards and maturity forwards.… In this way we passed from an epoch without adolescence to one where adolescence is the favoured period. One desires to attain that age quickly and to remain there a long time.16

Thus, the appearance of the “adolescence” phenomenon coincided with the emergence of romanticism and all of the distorted realities and myths that it created. The pre-romantic, pre-industrialised societies were not acquainted with these myths and distortions regarding the normal development of the child within the family. Philippe Aries continues:

In the Middle Ages and at the beginning of the Modern Era and even later, the working class children mixed with adults as soon as they were considered able to dispense with their mother’s or nanny’s help.… From that moment they took part in the great community of people.… Our world is obsessed by the physical, moral and sexual problems of childhood. This concern was unknown to medieval civilisation because they did not have these problems. As soon as the child was able, he would become the natural companion of the adult.17

15. Paul H. Landis, Adolescence and Youth: The Process of Maturing, McGraw-Hill. New York. 1945. p. 70
16. Philippe Aries, História Social da Criança e da Família, Zahar Eds., Rio de Janeiro, 1978, pp. 46-47
17. Ibid., pp. 275-276.

The Christian Institution of the Family: A Dynamic Force to Regenerate Society, by Tradition, Family, Property Association. Part II, Chapter 1, Pgs. 96-98.


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