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Strean, H.S. (1975). Separating Parents and Adolescents. Helm Stierlin. New York: Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Company, 1974. xiv + 205 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 62(2):344-345.

(1975). Psychoanalytic Review, 62(2):344-345

Separating Parents and Adolescents. Helm Stierlin. New York: Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Company, 1974. xiv + 205 pp.

Review by:
Herbert S. Strean

Any casual observer of the adolescent scene has been witnessing a dramatic shift in our teen-age culture. From “copping out,” “dropping out,” and “doing one's thing,” many teenagers and older adolescents in more recent years have been turning to conforming, staying in college, and carving out rather conventional role-sets for themselves. Whether this is a healthy or unhealthy trend remains to be fully evaluated.

Adolescents as a group or as individuals are always changing. During the fifties we wondered why they were so quiet, and many of us missed their political rebelliousness and other forms of protest. During the sixties we were upset by their drug culture, hippie propensities, communes, and breaking into college presidents' offices and homes. Now they are quiet again, and we wonder!

Anna Freud has observed that the adolescent one day is altruistic, the next day enormously selfish; one minute he's a slob, the next he's expounding on the necessity of propriety. Her observation seems to be valid in any culture and in any time of history. Adolescence, Sigmund Freud wrote in 1895, is one big riddle, and it still may well be asked if this stage of development is less of a riddle in the 1970's.

To help reduce the mystery of the adolescent and his developmental crisis, hundreds of experts are putting their thoughts on paper. Helm Stierlin, a Sullivanian psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, has added to the plethora of literature by writing about adolescents who run away and has exposed some of the dynamics of the interpersonal processes between these young people and their parents.

The runaway culture is a complex one. It is shaped by the needs and contributions of approximately six hundred thousand young people who run away from their homes each year. It is as diverse and pluralistic as the modern American society of which it forms a part. In order to expose the psychopathology in the runaway adolescent, Stierlin utilizes a transactional approach and attempts to determine what is salient in the runaway's contribution, what is salient in his parents' contributions, and what is salient in the interaction of the two—“the relational dialectic.”


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