The Dual Life In Kids Today
YTN’s research found that a majority of youth is leading a dual life with their parents and other adults to varying degrees, more often towards the more serious end of the spectrum in the high school years. Depending on the community, school or youth organization, the range of youth leading dual lives fell between 60% and 90%. This often resulted in loss of motivation in school that left unchecked lead to a loss of internal confidence and ultimately a sense of numbness that leads to more extreme escape behaviors.
The dual life, as defined by the youth in our sessions, is knowing how to act and what to say when with parents or adults and then leading a very different life when apart from these influences. While the dual life existed when many of us grew up it was not as prevalent or as dark according to the youth we have interviewed.
The advent of technology, the busy schedule of parents, and the dramatic shift in the worldview of today’s adolescents have led to an explosion of young people working together to lead dual lives when apart from adults. Their strategies are fairly simple and straightforward and accomplish the goal of getting around mom and dad’s rules or restrictions.
This dual life begins with small compromises that lead to larger and larger compromises as they realize they can get away with the dual life. The outcome is that communication with their parents decreases and youth develop a false sense of confidence in their own judgment.
One might expect that with such large percentages of youth leading dual lives that the issues would be so prevalent more parents would be aware of their kids’ dual lives than they are today. This is because the dual life is held in check by the fact that youth are around their parents or other adults a majority of the time and can only escape into their dual life activities a small percentage of the time. Thus the dual life is held in check until they leave home for work, the military or college.
This is one reason so many youth struggle in their transition to life on their own. Once free from the watchful eyes and control of parents, the dual life can take over quickly in the first days on a college campus, on military leave, or in one’s own apartment.
The root of the dual life appears to stem from parents’ misunderstanding adolescence and the disconnect this creates with their kids because of how they have been trained to parent in this time frame. The mismatch is caused by dramatic shifts within the adolescent brain that accompany puberty. The parental response to these changes often leads to unresolved issues and increased conflict that causes youth to distance themselves from parents and begin to hide their failures. This is the first step toward a deceptive dual life.
Once leading a dual life youth look to each other and their focus shifts away from achievement that impacts academic performance and success.