Today on Trend Following Radio Michael Covel interviews Peter Gray. Peter is an American psychologist who currently occupies the position of research professor of psychology at Boston College. He is also a well known critic of standard learning systems, and calls himself an evolutionary developmental psychologist. He studies why children are the way they are by asking questions like: Why are children so playful? Why are they so willful? Why do children do what they do?
Peter starts the podcast off saying, “There is an issue with the resilience of young people today.” Since the 1950’s there has been an increase of psychological problems among youth. Counselors are being flooded with trivial issues that in earlier years students would have taken care of themselves. Roommate issues, bad grades, breakups, etc. are a few examples of issues students are now deciding they need to see psychotherapists for. It’s not that people are biologically different than previous generations, it’s that our world has become radically different than the past. Children used to spend a lot more time away from adults, where they have to make their own decisions. They used to learn how to deal with bully’s on their own or getting lost and having to find their own way home.
Peter argues that as long as we are overly protective of young people, they will never grow up. Kids need to have the time and opportunity to get out in the world and figure out what they really enjoy. We aren’t letting children experiment, take risks and fail. Even sports have been taken away from the kids. Adult directed sports don’t let kids have creativity to solve their own problems. Children learn the most from playing with other children and taking adults out of the equation. Kids who are “play deprived” have real social consequences. Peter shares an experiment done with young monkeys. One group of monkeys got to play with other monkeys their own age, the other group of monkeys were only around their parents, not other adolescents to play with. The ones who were not able to play were socially incompetent. They would either get overly aggressive or nervous around others their own age. Over the past 50 years there has been a continuous decline of play between young children. Hence, you can see the rapid increase in social and emotional disorders among youth. Michael and Peter finish up discussing ways of implicating free play back into society.
In this episode of Trend Following Radio: