Help for Hurting Kids

Brad M. Griffin | Jun 27, 2011

Our colleague and friend Chap Clark has just released his newest book, Hurt 2.0: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers. Hurt 2.0 is an extensive revision of the ground-breaking Hurt published in 2004. I just had the chance last week to flip through the newest edition.

Updating and fortifying core insights from his ethnographic study, Chap has pulled from cross-disciplinary quantitative and qualitative research to further explore the core concepts behind Hurt, namely that as a society we have abandoned adolescents systemically and relationally.

In this edition Chap fleshes out the idea that midadolescents (roughly age 14-18) live out of multiple selves as they are attempting to develop a cohesive sense of identity in the midst of abandonment. In other words, their identity is usually anything but cohesive as they pull on different personas in varying contexts in which they are forced to operate. This shifting identity is confusing not only to the adults around them, but to kids themselves who cannot fully articulate this shift. Heres Chaps description:

Midadolescents are not able to compartmentalize their lives while operating out of a personal sense of self. Society has let go of personal and individual commitment to the youngTo survive, a young person must learn how to be a child, a student, an athlete, and a friend, while also continuing the ever-lengthening process of determining who he or she is[W]hat is new is the lack of ability to construct bridges between one self and another. The inability to see contradictions as contradictions and the ability to easily rationalize seemingly irreconcilable beliefs, attitudes, or values are but two of many markers that may be pointing to an emerging phase of adolescent development and may provide a key indicator of the essence of midadolescence (Clark, 2).

Chap also adds a chapter exploring kids at the margins, looking at the particular risks associated with affluent youth and those who are particularly vulnerable to the effects of poverty, abuse, or mental disability.

What makes a difference in the face of cultural abandonment? Chap insists:

  1. Youth need refocused, nurturing organizations and programs.
  2. Youth need a stable and secure loving presence.
  3. Youth need to experience authentic, intimate relationships with adults (see Chapter 13).

Youth ministry and the broader church community can provide an incredibly hopeful response to this cultural reality. To paraphrase our friend Steve Argue, we need to respond to systemic abandonment by consistently offering systemic support and presence in kids lives.

What signs are you seeing of hopeful response to youth abandonment in your community?

Read more about midadolescence from Chap.

Heres an interview with Chap from a few years ago on our site.

Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute, where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, writer, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of over a dozen books, including 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager, Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and Can I Ask That? Brad and his family live in Southern California, where he serves as Pastor of Youth and Family Ministries at Mountainside Communion.

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