Childhood Disorders

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12 and HoldingA Guide to Asperger SyndromeA Lethal InheritanceA Mother's Courage: Talking Back to AutismA Parent's Guide to Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning AutismA Special EducationA Toss Of The DiceA Tribe ApartA User Guide to the GF/CF Diet for Autism, Asperger Syndrome and AD/HDA Walk in the Rain With a BrainABC of Eating DisordersADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your LifeADHD Grown UpADHD in the Schools: Assessment and Intervention StrategiesADHD NationAdolescence and Body ImageAdolescent DepressionAggression and Antisocial Behavior in Children and AdolescentsAll Alone in the UniverseAlpha GirlsAmericaAnother PlanetAntisocial Behavior in Children and AdolescentsAsperger Syndrome and Your ChildAsperger Syndrome, Adolescence, and IdentityAsperger's and GirlsAssessment of Childhood DisordersAttention Deficit DisorderAttention-Deficit Hyperactivity DisorderAttention-Deficit/Hyperactivity DisorderAutism - The Eighth Colour of the RainbowAutism and MeAutism's False ProphetsAutistic Spectrum DisordersBad GirlBeen There, Done That? DO THIS!Before I DieBetween Two WorldsBeyond AppearanceBig Mouth & Ugly GirlBipolar ChildrenBipolar Disorder in Childhood and Early AdolescenceBipolar DisordersBipolar KidsBlackwell Handbook of Childhood Cognitive DevelopmentBody Image, Eating Disorders, and ObesityBody Image, Eating Disorders, and Obesity in YouthBoy AloneBrain-Based Therapy with Children and AdolescentsBreaking PointBreathing UnderwaterBringing Up ParentsBullying and TeasingBullying PreventionBut I Love HimCan't Eat, Won't EatCaring for a Child with AutismCatalystChild and Adolescent PsychiatryChild and Adolescent Psychological DisordersChild and Adolescent PsychopathologyChild NeuropsychologyChild Well-BeingChildren and SexualityChildren Changed by TraumaChildren with Emerald EyesChildren with Sexual Behavior ProblemsChildren, Sexuality and SexualizationChildren’s Dreaming and the Development of Consciousness City of OneCommunication Issues In Autism And Asperger SyndromeConcepts of NormalityConcise Guide to Child 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Understand Medications for Behavioral and Emotional ProblemsHelping Students Overcome Depression and AnxietyHelping Teens Who CutHollow KidsHope's BoyHow Infants Know MindsHow to Keep Your Teenager Out of Trouble and What to Do If You Can'tHurry Down SunshineI Am Not Joey PigzaIdentifying Hyperactive ChildrenIf Your Adolescent Has an Eating DisorderIn the Company of CraziesIncorporating Social Goals in the ClassroomIntegrated YogaIntrusive ParentingIssues for Families, Schools and CommunitiesJake RileyJoey Pigza Loses ControlJoey Pigza Swallowed the KeyJuvenile-Onset SchizophreniaKim: Empty InsideLearning and Behavior Problems in Asperger SyndromeLearning Disorders and Disorders of the Self in Children and AdolescentsLearning Outside the Lines Let Kids Be KidsLiberation's ChildrenLife As We Know ItLisa, Bright and DarkLook Me in the EyeLoserLove and SexLove That DogMad at SchoolMaking ADD WorkMaking American BoysManicMastering Anger and AggressionMaverick MindMedicating ChildrenMind FieldsMind to MindMommy I'm Still in HereMore Than a LabelMy Flesh and BloodMyths of ChildhoodNew Hope for Children and Teens with Bipolar DisorderNew Look at ADHD: Inhibition, Time, and Self-ControlNo Child Left DifferentNo Two AlikeNon-Drug Treatments for ADHDNot Much Just Chillin'NurtureShockOdd Girl OutOdd Girl Speaks OutOne Hot SecondOne in ThirteenOphelia SpeaksOphelia's MomOur Journey Through High Functioning Autism and Asperger SyndromeOut of the WoodsOvercoming ADHDOvercoming School AnxietyParenting a Child Who Has Intense EmotionsParenting Children With ADHDParenting Your Out-Of-Control TeenagerPediatric PsychopharmacologyPediatric PsychopharmacologyPediatric PsychopharmacologyPeople with HyperactivityPhobic and Anxiety Disorders in Children and AdolescentsPINSPlease Don't Label My ChildPraising Boys WellPraising Girls WellProblem Child or Quirky Kid?Problem GirlsPsychotherapy for Children and AdolescentsPsychotherapy with Children and AdolescentsPurgeRaising a Moody 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Revised EditionTaming the Troublesome ChildTemple GrandinThe American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook Of Child And Adolescent PsychiatryThe Anti-Romantic ChildThe Bipolar ChildThe Boy Who Loved Too MuchThe Boy Who Loved WindowsThe Boy Who Was Raised as a DogThe Buffalo TreeThe Bully Action GuideThe Bully, the Bullied, and the BystanderThe Burn JournalsThe Color of AbsenceThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-TimeThe Depressed ChildThe Developing MindThe Dragons of AutismThe Einstein SyndromeThe EpidemicThe Evolution of ChildhoodThe Explosive ChildThe Eyes of van GoghThe Fasting GirlThe Field of the DogsThe Flight of a DoveThe Hidden Gifts of the Introverted ChildThe Horse BoyThe Identity TrapThe Inner World of a Suicidal YouthThe Inside Story on Teen GirlsThe Kindness of StrangersThe Last Normal ChildThe Little MonsterThe Medicated ChildThe Myth of LazinessThe New Gay TeenagerThe Nurture AssumptionThe OASIS Guide to Asperger SyndromeThe Other ParentThe Perversion of YouthThe 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Related Topics
Alpha GirlsReview - Alpha Girls
Understanding the New American Girl and How She Is Changing the World
by Dan Kindlon
Rodale Books, 2006
Review by Denise M. Wells
Sep 11th 2007 (Volume 11, Issue 37)

Alpha girls are described as the "third wave of feminism" and possibly the first generation of women who can and will "reap the benefits of women's movement"!  Kindlon describes an alpha girl as an assertive, decisive and a confident female cognizant of her life choices; a person ready to take risks and willing to "transcend the barriers of race and class." He discusses this new image in the context of the major gains women have made -- the ability to vote, to make reproductive choices and to participate in myriad athletic activities under Title IX.

Kindlon offers many arguments to support this perception. The father-daughter dyad is helping girls to be more direct, competitive and to engage in risk-taking behaviors. In the context of this relationship fathers provide their daughters the necessary role modeling of "male attitudes". As Irving Gottesman's role theory indicates, girls have choices of diverse roles to try on and assimilate. This exposure provides the daughter with innate abilities of both "animus and anima"-- Jung's terms to address the male and female components of our selves.  This "hybrid" integration provides the basis for alpha girls to be both "rational and intuitive, tender and hard-headed, and self-sacrificing and self-serving."

In a similar vein, Kindlon takes on the experts in development from Sigmund Freud, Lawrence Kohlberg, Carol Gilligan, Nancy Chodorow, Jean Baker Miller, and Erik Erickson offering new data from the Adolescent Life Survey to demonstrate that girls have no penis-envy, moral deficit, lack of voice, mom-centered psyche, male subjugation or intense identity crisis.  He identifies this psychology of emancipation as the rationale for the increase in self-esteem for girls with experiences in the family, school setting and culture. Alpha girls have an "internal locus of control." There are no mixed messages to girls, but rather significant expectations for success and challenge.

In discussing biology, Kindlon offers many studies discussing brain size, function and innate abilities between the sexes  but returns to the Anne Fausto-Sterting's assertion that the "role of discrimination and socialization dramatically affects male and female aptitude and performance." He asserts that, in fact men are experiencing more biological vulnerabilities such as stress related decreases in male birth during times of hardship and   with exposure to endocrine-disrupting pollutants such as PCBs, and dioxin.  In citing other trends, he made notes of the growing phenomenon of women in many undergraduate and graduate settings while male spouses provide childcare and nurturance.  He describes the alpha women as intense, independent and self-sufficient, and very goal-oriented in their work. In the work force, the "transformational versus transactional" work orientation have provided women with better ability to work as a team and to promote more creativity! Their work approach encourages initiative and unique problem-solving using a less authoritarian mode.  Alas what do women want?  We have it all. Or do we?

I always become very skeptical when I read that that never before have women had the ability and opportunity to do it all. In fact, in most ages there have always been women who have taken on risks and challenges and made significant differences.  I would encourage any one to read Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of  Women or peruse Barbara Miller Solomon's In the Company of Educated Women.   Another interesting group of women were the women who became in involved the Hull-House with Jane Addams as described by Peggy Glowacki and Julia Hendry in Images of America: Hull-House. In a similar vein, one should be aware of the number of  psychoanalysts who pursued  Freud's new principles and in some cases posed great challenges in his dogma. One readily recalls Helene Deutsch, Ruth Mack Brunswick, Marie Bonaparte, Melanie Klein and Karen Horney. In fact, it was Karen Horney who disagreed with Sigmund Freud about penis-envy. She must have been a confident, self-actualized "alpha girl" to take on such a challenge.

More to the point, I would encourage readers to review Martha Putallaz and Karen L. Bierman's book on aggression in girls,  Aggression, Antisocial Behavior, and Violence Among Girls. I have worked with female juvenile delinquents who make such claims as  "I was being assertive" when a young offender opted to direct her car into the telephone booth where the disrespectful girl attempted to obtain shelter. For many girls, there is a complete misunderstanding of aggression and assertion. In families that have good socioeconomic opportunities, the benefit of caring parents and the ability to attend good schools, these young girls have the familial context to become better socialized and to develop empathy. This is simply not the case in many girls' existence.

Laura Liswood talks about how alpha girls will fare in addressing anger in the work place and questions, whether these women, will have the needed "revolutionary skills" of earlier generations. It will be interesting to see how alpha girls deal with their anger in the work place.  I do believe that there will be a continuum of responses among these females, some far different than their male cohorts, but, unfortunately, some at the same primitive level of functioning that we have seen in some men.

I think that this book could provide provocative discussion in families or reading groups, but it is limited by its socioeconomic milieu. I wonder how many Midwest adolescent girls would identify themselves as alpha girls in more rural settings.

© 2007 Denise M. Wells 

Denise M. Wells trained as a psychiatric nurse, but used this training as a juvenile probation officer working predominantly with girls. Her other interests include the history of woman, the history of women psychoanalysts, and patterns of  female nurturing and mothering.


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