Thursday, January 8, 1981.
The Michigan Daily
Adolescent abuse: A collision of crises
BOYS TOWN, Neb.-A father starts feeling
twinges of envy at the growing strength of his
teenaged son, and decides he's going to have to
let that smart-mouthed kid know who's boss.
Unlike- the spankings of childhood, this
beating-with fists-draws blood.
A mother finds fault with every item of
clothing her daughter buys and makes the girl
face a critical inspection every morning before
school. No matter what the girl wears, her
mother tells her it looks terrible and demands
she change into something else.
BOTH ARE examples of "adolescent
abuse," a basic conflict between parents and
teens that can erupt into violence.
"Nature has planned it so that the changes of
adolescence rub salt into the wounds of middle
age," says Dr. Ira Lourie, a specialist in child
abuse at the National Institute of Mental
This conflict in ages can lead to abuse that is
different from the blind lashing-out of child
abuse, researchers have found. The stresses
are long-simmering ones that have come to a
boil due to unfortunate timing in life cycles.
Parents with no history of violence can become
abusive for the first time as their children
IT IS-DIFFICULT to establish precisely the
extent of the problem, but it is generally,
recognized that teenagers make up between 25
and 35 percent of the 2 million reported child
abuse cases in America each year. Resear-
chers Dr. James Garbarino and Barbara Car-
son of Boys Town Center in Nebraska have
found that half of the adolescent abuse cases
they studied involved families where no child
abuse had taken place.
It happens that most American parents are
"midolescent," or age 35 to 50, and leaving
young adulthood just as their youngsters are
getting ready to enter it. Both groups are
changing in the same areas, but in opposite
.During puberty, youth sprout physically and
mentally and begin carving out identities.
Frequently, they are insecure, erratic, and
noody. At the same, time, their parents are
taking self-inventories, realizing their youth
has passed. They tend to be restless and
dissatisfied with life in general and with their
jobs and marriages in particular.
BOTH DEVELOPMENTAL stages cause
people to be self-absorbed and unsure of them-
selves, with little reserve for helping others.
"It's a clash of inferiority complexes," says
researcher Barbara Smith of the University of
Adolescents are developing sexually while
their parents are beginning to worry about im-
potence, menopause, gray hairs, and pot
bellies. The adolescent is falling in love at the
By Gwen Gil/jm
peak time for his parents' marital disillusion-
While parents are feeling they've accom-
plished all they ever will, the teens' career
dreams are limitless.
Youth is a time to defy death by joyriding or
experimenting with drugs or alcohol, while
parents face the illnesses and deaths of their
friends, as well as their own demise.
IN SUMMARY, it's as if some cosmic clock
has programmed the most exciting parts of a
teenager's life to irritate his parents' sore spots
The research by Dr. Garbarino and Barbara
Carson at Boys Town Center found that
adolescent abuse seems to reflect more long-
term interpersonal problems than the quick,
* unprovoked attacks of child abuse. They found
the merging of parents' mid-life crises and
teens' adolescent crises to be an extended
moment of truth for the family. Problems that
were more subtle in earlier years begin to sur-
face as the adolescent can, for the first time,
call his parents' bluff.
In families that don't make the transition
from spanking to psychological persuasion, the
adolescent growth spurt can cause parents to
use more and more force, even violence, to
RICK'S FATHER had always been a severe
disciplinarian, but it wasn't until Rick became
a teenager that fists started replacing the belt.
It was as if Rick's father had to prove that his
strength was still superior to the boy's. "If I
punched you, I would knock you out," he used
to remind the boy. One day, while father and
son were cleaning the family laundromat in
suburban St. Louis, Rick's father found some
dirt in the corner the boy's broom shouldn't
have missed. He started punching Rick's face,
drawing blood. Then he beat the boy's head
against one of the dryers.
Equally as damaging is emotional abuse,
making a child feel worthless through constant
criticism or failing to consider his or her
opinions. Often the parent is trying to feel more
powerful or important than the teenager.
Marlena's mother demoralized the girl every
morning, for no matter what the California
teenager wore, she was sent upstairs to
change. After her mother finished making fun
of her choice of clothes, Marlena would go to
school feeling like a nothing. She didn't realize it,
but her mother's excessive concern with
clothing was an attempt to suppress her
daughter's budding, threatening sexuality.
SOME PARENTS fear losing control so
much they turn totalitarian. Tami, a St. Paul,
Minn., teenager, had a father who was a
fanatic about spotless drinking glasses.
Whenever he found a spot, he would "ground"
his daughter, which meant leaving the house or
even talking on the phone was forbidden. The
girl also had to ask permission to eat, take
baths, or go to bed.
The life cycle conflict also sets youngsters up
for incest because they are developing sexually
at a time when parents are looking for confir-.
mations of their own sexuality. ,
Tara's father had always been affectionate,
giving her lots of long back rubs. When Tara,
who lived in Missouri, turned 13, he started
having intercourse with her. Every morning,
shortly after her mother's car left the
driveway, Tara's father, an airline steward,
would wake her up by having sex with her. Af-
terward, she would get up and make him
breakfast as if nothing had happened.
Clinicians studying youth say adolescent
abuse doesn't necessarily reflect a lack of
parental love. Adults who are destabilized by.
their own development are more often over-
whelmed than unloving.
Even Tara, who never wants to see her in-
cestuous father again outside a courtroom,
says, "I can tell that my dad loves me. He just
loves me too much, and in the wrong way."
Gwen Gilliam is the co-author of Under-
standing Abusive Families. She wrote this.
article for the Pacific News Service.
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan'
Vol. XCI; No. 84
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board
Lines, Lists, and drudgery:
that time of year
It's no longer something that can be
spoken about in whispers. It's here and
we're stuck with it.
Along with the new year and the sub-
zero temperatures, classes have star-
ted. Not to mention the lines and wait
lists to get into those classes-like
Econ, Freshman Comp, and Human
Sexuality. Like trying to fit six
elephants into a Volkswagen, ad-
ministrators still haven't figured out
how to fit the number of people who
want a course into the number of cour-
As that California tan wears away
and the winter break peace of mind
comes apart, all of the rest of the win-
ter term drudges will begin to come
together. Think of it: the $133 bill for
books, grinching through mounds of
snow to get to classes, getting buried in
Then there's doing everything on the
syllabi. Pretty soon it will be time for
the first hourly or paper. Then come
midterms-and before you know it, it
will be finals time again. Sure, there
are stops at Dooley's --and a spring
break here and there-but for the most
part it's another four months of cold,
barren, winter term.
Yet, already this winter term has
shown some signs of varying from the
norm. For instance, there's more snow
today than there was last year at this
time. So when you're studying for the
hourly at least you can think of all the-'
skiing you might be doing.
There have been other changes, too.
By the end of this month we'll have a
new president. And buying books is dif-
ferent since the University Cellar in-
stalled the new electronic guard.
If this seems mundane, the prospect
of being involved in a war in several
different parts of the world may be en-
ticing. Severe economic blight also
looks like a highlight of this semester.
Whatever the result, take a deep
breath and plunge into the snowbanks
of winter term.
And, take heart-it's the last term
before the next one.
IF 'y'o'gE flITERETEP
IN OUR CAM~'PAIGN'
K TarLA ite ,y~x P O
'Mr T'1TtTl nA TT 'V.
A student union should be student-run
To the Daily:
In its current state, the
Michigan Union falls woefully
short of meeting the needs of the
majority of students on the
University of Michigan Ann Ar-
bor campus. This is a statement
with which very few students
here would disagree. Lately,
however, some students have at-
tempted to reverse this situation.
For the last four months, a group
of students known as the Acting
Executive Committee of the
Michigan Union has been hard at
work writing up an operating
charter for the Union. It was felt
that a new charter, outlining the
purposes of the Union and its
governing structure, would be
beneficial in giving some direc-
tion to the Union and in making
it more responsive to the needs of
the University and its students.
To this end, the Acting
Executive Committee, after
consultations and meetings with
students, the University ad-
ministration, and the current
Union Director, drafted an
... _ .
A Gettysburg A ddress
To the Daily:
In a statement last month, an
aide to Ronald Reagan said that
human rights would not be
allowed to interfere with other
U.S. vital interests in the for-
mation of future U.S. foreign
policy with Latin American coun-
tries. That sounds like a con-
tinuation of our permanent Latin
If the Gettysburg Address were
rewritten to describe our prac-
tices in Latin America, it would
go something like this:
"Ten score and four years ago,
our fathers brought forth a new
nation, conceived in liberty, and
dedicated to the equality of all
men, except those whose skin
is dark. Now we are engaged in a
great fiscal war, testing whether
our southern neighbors, or any
people so poor or so cheated, can
long endure. . . But, in a larger
sense, we can't hallow this
ground, but rather the money it
government of the people, by the
people, and for the people, shall
perish from this earth."
Where have we valued the
dollar more than liberty and a
government of the people, etc.?
Chile, 1970: The people of Chile
elect Salvador Allende on his
record and promise of land
reform and people's rights, not
the dollar's. We then cut all aid to
Chile, except that we increased
aid to the military; copper mines
there were too important to us to
let human rights interfere. In
1973, the army took power by for-
ce and killed Allende.
In Guatemala in 1954 and the
Dominican Republic in 1965, U.S.
Marines protected the interests
of U.S. businesses. We showed
those who dared choose their own
government exactly what we
mean now by "freedom": Our
freedom to use them and their
land; their freedom to starve.
This is not the comp~lete list. only
operating charter for the Union,
which was scrutinized and ap-
proved by the Michigan Student
Assembly in mid-December. The
charter was then brought before
the current director of the Union,
Frank Cianciola. It was at this
stage that a problem arose. Mr.
Cianciola rejected the charter,
apparently because he was not
happy with the division of powers
and responsibilities in the
The proposed charter divides
responsibilities between an
Executive Committee (composed
mostly of students, along with
representatives for alumni,
faculty, and staff) and the Union
Director. Of particular concern
to Mr. Cianciola is the section
which gives the student-
dominated Executive Commit-
tee joint and equal power with the
Union Director in establishing
major Union policy decisions
concerning, among other things,
building use, scheduling, leasing
policies, and Union budget ap-
proval. Mr. Cianciola apparently
would rather keep all these
powers in his own hands,
relegating the Executive Com-
mittee to merely an advisory
capacity, where it is possible that
student input could be ignored in
future decisions regarding the
And so the situation now stands
at, an impasse, the Acting
Executive Committee insisting
on worthwhile student input
policy decisions, the Union Direc-
tor insisting on keeping students
in a subordinate role. Later this,
week, the Acting Executive
Committee will go before other ;
University administration of
ficials in the hopes of hammering
our some kind of solution.
Now as a student and an MSA .
member, I may be slightly biased
in my opinion, but it seems only
logical that a student union
should function for the students
and that the students should have
a majority say in how their union
is run. This charter is not attem
pting to take control away from
the University administration or
the Union Director. All operating
policies will continue to be im-
plemented by the Director. This
charter merely insists that
students be given a voice in
deciding what the Union
operating policies will be, arid
ultimately in how the Union fun-
ctions for students and for the
University as a whole. I don't
believe that this is too much to
ask for, and I sincerely hope that
the administration and the
students can reach an agreement
that is satisfactory to both sides.
It is in the best interests of
everyone in the University com-
munity that an agreement be
reached and that the Union
begins to function more efficien-
tly in the future.
MSA Vice-president in " °
charge of Budget
P R I n - n( i ,' . li . -- ;; ......