The Second Family
Reckoning with Adolescent Power
Publication Date: March 2001
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If you have a teen or pre-teen, you recognize the phenomenon already-perhaps without even knowing it has a name. "The second family," as uncompromisingly described by renowned therapist Dr. Ron Taffel is the immense collective power of the peer group and pop culture-a force so pervasive, it threatens to, and often succeeds in, overwhelming the first family of adults at home and in school. Derived from thousands of interviews with kids and adults, The Second Family uses real-life, sometimes graphic examples to bare the truth about the world of adolescence today and to illuminate the new set of rules by which kids operate.
The second family can be scary to adults. While many parents bury their heads, insisting "not my child," Taffel reveals that even "good" children:
- Chronically lie without a trace of guilt
- Have sex at astonishingly early ages
- Do drugs and alcohol not to be bad but simply because they are there
Yet there are healthy aspects to the second family that often go unrecognized:
- A secret moral code of peer support that will surprise you
- Boys and girls as best friends
- Boys taking care of friends in emotional need
- Girls becoming powerful group leaders
- A social structure for teens that provides a type of intimacy, support, communication and honesty he or she can't find anywhere else.
It is impossible to understand today's teens or preteens without understanding the Second Family. Taffel opens a window into a closed world of frightening dangers and equally uplifting possibilities.
Dr. Ron Taffel is a noted child and family therapist and author of Parenting by Heart, Why Parents Disagree, Nurturing Good Children Now, and a guide for child professionals, Getting Through to Difficult Kids and Parents. He consults with and lectures at school, religious, and community organizations around the country. He is an award-winning contributing editor to Parents magazine and the founder of Family and Couples Treatment Services at the Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy in New York City, where he lives with his wife and children.
Melinda Blau, an award-winning journalist who often specializes in parenting issues, is the author of Families Apart and Loving and Listening, as well as coauthor of several other books including Dr. Taffel's Parenting By Heart and Nurturing Good Children Now. She is the mother of two grown children and lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.