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Esman, A.H. (1995). The Material Child. Coming Of Age In Japan And America. : By Merry White. New York/Toronto: The Free Press, 1993. 256 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 64:387-390.

(1995). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 64:387-390

The Material Child. Coming Of Age In Japan And America. : By Merry White. New York/Toronto: The Free Press, 1993. 256 pp.

Review by:
Aaron H. Esman

The psychoanalytic literature on adolescence has been, and in large measure continues to be, dominated by images derived from Western prototypes, and particularly by the Romantic vision of the tempestuous, rebellious youth described almost a century ago by G. Stanley Hall, a description sustained for psychoanalysis by Anna Freud. Only comparatively recently have studies of normative populations by such students as Daniel Offer and his colleagues begun to challenge this traditional view, formulating an alternative picture which relegates Sturm und Drang to a relatively minor role in the normal development of Western adolescents. Cross-cultural studies, pioneered by the now-controversial reports of Margaret Mead, have added further richness and variety to this view, and have led many to question the universality and inevitability of the profile of adolescence with which most analysts are familiar.

The present volume is a welcome addition to this growing literature. Merry White, an American sociologist specializing in the study of Japan, offers here a penetrating, highly readable comparative survey of American and Japanese adolescents (cheenayjas) in the 1990's. Relying on personal interviews, diaries, and her own observations as well as published surveys and opinion polls, she succeeds in demonstrating the ways in which culture shapes the behavioral manifestations of adolescence, and the ways in which many of the behaviors we have regarded as intrinsic to the developmental phase are, in fact, the products of such cultural shaping.

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