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Mead, M. (1947). Maturity and Society. Am. J. Psychoanal., 7(1):79-81.

(1947). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 7(1):79-81

Maturity and Society

Margaret Mead

WHEN I was asked to talk on this program I was glad to do so because I am very much concerned with the fact that psychoanalysis has given us a new level of awareness so that people today are in a different position, from the position that people were in two generations ago. They not only, as an old catechism said, know that rocks are, plants are and live, animals live and move and feel, and man moves and feels and knows; we have now put men into the position of people who are and move and feel and know and know that they know. That is the dimension that has been added to our society specifically by psychoanalysis.

Dr. Peterson said you could become mature before you died. I don't object to that at all, if it only happens about the last hour! The word “maturity” does mean to me on the whole that you have got to a place where you can't get any further. You may be doing well there for quite a while but when you start doing something else you move downhill, and you get paler, weaker, thinner, duller or something less vivid. What I really feel we need and all of us are going to discuss is a new evaluation of what growth is like in modern society.

Now in many primitive societies children are in a sense mature by the time they are seven or eight years old. Their ideas are set so hard they will never get unset again.

I tried to teach Samoan children of six or seven to skip. That is a simple thing to do but all their postures, all their gestures, all their beautiful dance forms were so set that children of six or seven couldn't learn to skip.

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