One of the more surprising and concerning findings from Revive Family’s research with adolescents was that a significant majority of youth are leading a dual life. In fact a recent McAfee study found that 70% of adolescents were hiding their Internet behavior from their parents. Revive’s research found that between 60% and 90% of kids age 10 to 18 were leading dual lives of varying degrees that their parents were frequently unaware of. The percentage leading a dual life increased, as they got older.
The dual life, as defined by the youth in our sessions, as knowing how to act and what to say when with parents or adults but leading a very different life when apart from these influences. While the dual life existed when many of us grew up it was not as prevalent or as dark according to the youth we have interviewed.
The advent of technology, the busy schedule of parents, and the dramatic shift in the worldview of today’s adolescents have led to an explosion of young people working together to lead dual lives when apart from adults. Their strategies are fairly simple and straightforward and accomplish the goal of getting around mom and dad’s rules or restrictions.
This dual life begins with small compromises as they enter adolescence and figure out that it is often easier to hide things from parents. The root of this is found in how parents handle shortcomings and failures that actually motivate kids to hide things from their parents. Often this leads to larger and larger compromises if the relationship with their parent has become more difficult. This results in decreasing communication with parents and youth looking to friends more and more resulting in a sense of confidence in their own judgment because they can not use their parents as sounding boards.
A study by Notre Dame University found that 67% of adolescents wanted more involvement from their parents in their life. What the study did not identity was the type of involvement they would accept. Revive Family and Jeff Schadt spent significant time identifying the involvement our kids desire that they will accept, trust and result in adolescents including us in their decision making process. This formed the basis of Revive Family’s Influential Parenting.
One might expect that with such large percentages of youth leading dual lives that the issues would be so prevalent more parents would be aware of their kids’ dual lives. We found that most parents are not aware, because the dual life is held in check by the fact that youth are around their parents or other adults a majority of the time. can only escape into their dual life activities a small percentage of the time. Thus the dual life is held in check until they leave home for work, the military or college. This help explains why 28% of college freshman do not make it through their first year and only 30% who start complete a four-year degree.
This is one the key reasons so many youth struggle in their transition to life on their own. Once free from the watchful eyes and control of parents, the dual life can take over quickly in the first days on a college campus, on military leave or in one’s own apartment.
The root of the dual life stems from traditional parenting strategies and parents’ misunderstanding of adolescence. These lead to relational disconnects that kids often do not communicate to their parents.
We found that traditional parenting strategies often lead to unresolved relational issues between parents and kids resulting in increased conflict that causes youth to distance themselves from parents and begin to hide small things from them. This is the first step toward a deceptive dual life. As a result, kids distance themselves from parents and fill the void with the influence of friends and the youth culture.
Influential Parenting was developed to help parents prevent and or reverse the subtle relational divide that creeps in with our kids. Jeff and Deedee began using the skills they learned with their adolescents with their last child, Eric, when he was three years old. As a result, Eric is the first positive core value kid they have raised!