Saturday, July 22, 2017

What does research tell us parents can do when it comes to alcohol and does 'one size fit all'? Does your child's temperament make a difference?

Regular readers of my blog may have noticed that I've been a bit quiet over the past couple of weeks. Unfortunately, it's not because I went on holiday or did anything particularly exciting, sadly I was bed-ridden with shingles! Wow it's painful and I've been told that the only way you really get over it was to have complete rest, so that's what I did ... well, almost! The one thing that I have been able to do is to catch up with some reading ... I had a couple of books I wanted to get finished and a whole pile of journal articles that I have had on my desk for a while. I thought I'd share a couple of things that I found really interesting.

Every parent wants their child to have a healthy attitude around alcohol, whether they choose to drink in the future or not. Unfortunately, many continue to believe that they can do little to influence their child's drinking behaviour, particularly during the adolescent years, however, the evidence continues to say that this is simply not true. So what can parents do and in really practical terms, what does the research say works?

Earlier this year an Australian study (Yap et al, 2017) was published that conducted a review of longitudinal studies that examined a range of parenting factors (that could be potentially influenced or modified) that were associated with adolescent alcohol initiation and levels of later use or misuse. What the researchers were attempting to do was to identify what behaviours are protective (i.e., what things can parents do to delay drinking and future problems with alcohol?) and what factors are more likely to lead to drinking at an earlier age and lead to issues as they got older (i.e., what should be avoided)? They identified 12 parenting factors, including the provision of alcohol; parental monitoring; rules about alcohol; parental discipline; and favourable attitudes towards alcohol use.
It's a really great piece of work (based on a review of 131 studies in this area) and once you get through all of the statistical analysis, the authors identify four protective factors that parents should attempt to increase and they are as follows:
  • parental monitoring
  • parent-child relationship quality
  • parental support
  • parental involvement
There are no real surprises here but the authors are very clear in the following statement - "... by being more aware of their adolescents' activities, whereabouts and friends, parents can help to protect their adolescents from later alcohol misuse". This supports the mantra that I have been spruiking for many years - if you want to prevent, or at the very least, delay early drinking or even illicit drug use - 'Know where your child is, know who they're with and know when they'll be home!' I get it that's not always easy, particularly as they get older and you want to give them more freedom as they become young adults, but when they're 14 or 15-years-old, it's a must. As I always say, start this early and it won't be so difficult in the later years ...

When it comes to risk factors, the authors highlighted three behaviours that parents should attempt to reduce or avoid. Once again, there were no real shocks, but some parents may find them a little unsettling, with the following being identified:
  • provision of alcohol
  • favourable attitudes towards alcohol use
  • parental alcohol use
The authors acknowledged that a recommendation that parents should not allow their children to drink underage or provide them alcohol at home or for parties is a controversial one, particularly within cultures where giving children a sip at a family meal is regarded as appropriate and protective. That said, they state "this review provided clear evidence to back up policies and recommendations against parental provision in cultures where tolerance of binge drinking is the norm". This is a very clear statement to Australian parents as the evidence is very clear in this country that we are a nation of 'binge drinkers'.

Now when good quality research comes out like this, with very clear recommendations about what parents should and shouldn't do, I'm sure there are some people who sit there and say "But I did all that stuff and it didn't work for me!" I certainly hear from many distraught parents from who believe they 'did absolutely everything right' but still find themselves with a teen who is totally out of control. They've either been arrested for drug offences, sneaking out of the house at all hours of the night and sometimes not returning for days, been hospitalised after a drinking binge and the list goes on and on ... So often, in the conversations I have with them they inevitably say "I don't know where it all went wrong, we have had no issues with our other children ..."

Why is it that what we knows works for most teens simply doesn't have the same effect on others? Of course, every teen is different but is there something about some young people that just makes them more resistant to rules, boundaries and consequences? A month or two ago I wrote about a wonderful book I had started to read written by Robert MacKenzie called Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Teen - it really is a great read and I thoroughly recommend it to any parent struggling with an adolescent who is 'pushing all their buttons'!

MacKenzie doesn't talk about 'rules' per se, rather he discusses 'limits' and 'limit setting'. According to the author, all teens test the limits being imposed on them, (i.e., when a parent asks their child to do something or change their behaviour) and they do this by conducting what he refers to as 'research' (i.e., trying to establish just how much the person means what they say). This is often referred to as 'pushing the boundaries' by other parenting experts and is used by teens to see just how far they can go without crossing the line. Now I think it is well understood that not all teens test limits in the same way, but what I found fascinating in this book is how it stressed that 'teen temperament' plays a vital role in this area.

Three types of teen temperament and how they respond to 'limit setting' are discussed:
  • compliant teens (around 55% of teens match this profile according to Mackenzie) – these teens don't push their parents too much as their underlying desire is to please and cooperate. They accept the information their parents or teachers provide them and usually don't require a lot of consequences to complete their 'research', therefore accepting the limits imposed on them without too much conflict
  • strong-willed teens (10% of teens) – these young people test frequently and they require regular revision of consequences before they are willing to accept parents' authority and follow rules. MacKenzie provides an example of a strong-willed teen called Daniel and describes him as follows - "To him, the word stop is just a theory or hypothesis. He's more interested in what will happen if he doesn't stop, and he knows how to find out. He continues to test ..." I'm sure there are many parents out there who can relate to a teen like that!
  • fence sitters (35% of teens) – this is a mixed group that can go either way depending upon the situation. These teens are more likely to co-operate when they encounter clear, firm limits. However, they will have no issue testing rules and authority when the limits are unclear or when they see others getting away with something. The author stresses that this group requires "generous helpings of consequences to complete their research"
I'm sure many parents reading this will relate to at least one of these 'types' and if you have more than one child, I can almost guarantee that you have at least one of them that fits into a different category than the others! What MacKenzie stresses is that when you set limits (or create rules) for a teen it is vital that you need to acknowledge the different temperament you are working with ... and if you are lucky enough to have a 'strong-willed' one, well, it's going to be a heck of a lot tougher!

I cannot recommend this book strongly enough, not only to parents but to anyone who works with young people. If you find yourself with a teen who is 'strong-willed' and is testing you at every turn, this book is a must! It provides practical advice on how to set limits, how to develop appropriate consequences and even how to deliver them in a way that will hopefully minimise conflict. 

Research continues to show that parents continue to have a powerful influence on their child's attitudes and behaviours around alcohol use, even during their adolescence. Effective and age-appropriate parental monitoring during the teen years has been proven time and time again to be protective and the provision of alcohol to teens is a risk factor and should be avoided ('delay, delay, delay' being the key). That said, when it comes to rules and boundaries (or 'limit setting') in this or any other area, every child is different and their temperament is going to affect how you parent ... It's not going to be as simple as the evidence seems to suggest ...

Identifying and acknowledging what type of teen you have (and that if you have more than one, they may all be very different) is the first step in applying what the research says to your family situation. For some teens, simply setting rules and monitoring them will be enough to keep them protected and will likely instil positive values and attitudes without too much effort. Unfortunately, for others, they will continue to push boundaries and test you over and over again to see just how far they can go. It's not going to be easy but hopefully it'll be worth it in the end!

MacKenzie, R.J. (2015). Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Teen. Harmony Books: New York.
Yap, M., Cheong, T., Zaravinos-Tsakos, F., Lubman, D., & Jorm, A. (2017). Modifiable parenting factors associated with adolescent alcohol misuse: a systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Addiction 112, 1142-1162.

Read More »

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Kentucky Still Criminalizing Consenting Adults

People tend to bring up Discredited Argument #18 when attempting to justify bigotry and discrimination against intrafamilial sex, including consanguinamory, but cases like this are an example of why that's a bogus argument.

reported at that two adults are facing "incest" charges for the victimless crime of having sex with each other, even though they are not blood relatives. This is happening in Kentucky.
A Henderson woman and her stepson are facing incest charges after an investigation which started in June on an unrelated incident.
Henderson police said Ashley Johnson, 29, contacted the police last month to report that her stepson, Isaiah Johnson, 20, 800 block of Kingsway Court, had punched her vehicle's windshield causing it to shatter. The next day, Johnson called the police again stating the windshield was being fixed and she didn't want to press charges, a news release said.
See, if there is a problem at all, it is that there appears to be a contentious situation. Shattering her windshield can easily escalate to shattering her jaw, if he actually did that.
While speaking with authorities, Ashley Johnson said she was Isaiah's stepmother and that she and her stepson were involved in a sexual relationship, a news release said.
There was absolutely no reason to tell the police that. People are often surprised that there are still laws in many places against consenting adults, especially steprelations, having sex, but there are. Protect yourselves!!!
City police said when questioned, Isaiah Johnson confirmed he was having sexual intercourse with his stepmother.
He shouldn't have said anything like that, either.
On Tuesday, Isaiah Johnson was arrested on warrants for incest, third-degree criminal mischief, harassment and two bench warrants for failure to appear in other cases.
Sounds like he has other issues. The "incest" charge is just piling on.
Henderson police said there is an active warrant on Ashley Johnson also for the charge of incest. This investigation is still open.
That's a waste of public resources and yet another example of why we need relationship rights, including full marriage equality, for all consenting adults. Here's how you can help.

Prosecute people for crimes that have actual victims. Stop wasting time prosecuting adults for being affectionate with each other and loving each other how they mutually agree. There are people everywhere, in every demographic, having sex with their potential, current, or former stepsibling or adult stepchild or stepparent. It is common enough that everyone knows people in these situations, whether they know it or not. Anyone who thinks otherwise is naive. It shouldn't be a matter for police or courts if adults are having sex. If people commit assault or vandalism or destruction of someone else's property, that's a real crime.

Read More »

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Game of Thrones is Back and So Is Prejudiced Commentary

Ariana Romero has an article at about "incest" being all over TV, with a headline asking if Game of Thrones is to blame for depictions of something that has always been a part of life.
The HBO fantasy epic is so serious about inappropriate family-member loving, the very first episode of the series, "Winter Is Coming," ends with Cersei (Lena Headey) and Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) having doggy-style sex in a tower and then flinging Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) out of said tower to keep their relationship hidden.
Let's be clear. Consensual (to be redundant) sex between adult siblings is not inappropriate. Cheating is inappropriate. Assault is inappropriate. Sex between consenting adults who aren't cheating is not inappropriate. Unless they're doing it on the dining room table in the the middle of a big family dinner when that sort of thing wasn't expected.
So, does that mean Thrones is to blame for the recent incest boom on television?
Consanguineous sex and relationships have always been in our stories (see The Bible, Greek mythology) because those things have always been a part of life.

Game of Thrones certainly isn’t the first television show in history to deal with the taboo topic. Series from Arrested Development to Twin Peaks have dipped into the incest pond.
Please note the reason we use "consanguineous" and "consanguinamory" is that it is very important to distinguish sex from assault and molestation.

Throughout Arrested, the awkward George Michael Bluth (Michael Cera) is absolutely in love with his "cousin" Maeby Fünke (Alia Shawkat), whose mom Lindsay (Portia de Rossi) was actually adopted into the Bluth family. In Twin Peaks, a possessed Leland Palmer (Ray Wise) raped and murdered his own daughter, Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). On top of all this, there’s the aggressively inbred McPoyle clan on It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, with their love of milk and unibrows. While all of these incestuous storylines pre-date Game Of Thrones by nearly a half-decade or more, the premium cable drama does something no TV blockbuster went all-in on before: making one of the core romantic relationships both incestuous and 100 percent serious.
It would be great to get a lot of both dramatic and comedic realistic, loving portrayals that aren't about cheating. If Diane Rinella can write it well, surely others can depict it on TV.
In March 2014, Norma (Vera Farmiga) and Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) shared a not-in-the-least-way chaste kiss in Bates Motel’s "The Immutable Truth" to close out season 2. By the next season, the pair is sharing a bed, spooning, and not exactly acting like a cookie cutter mother-son pair. With all of this sexual tension in the air, it’s no surprise Norman also starts seeing super-sexy hallucinations of his mother everywhere. In the same year Norma and Norman were enjoying their bizarre lovers paradise, Pretty Little Liars revealed the identity of puppetmaster "A." The Rosewood tormenter turned out to be CeCe Drake-Slash-Charlotte DiLaurentis (Vanessa Ray). At one point, CeCe dated Jason DiLaurentis (Drew Van Acker), meaning everyone thought the transgender woman was romantically involved with her secret brother. It was eventually revealed CeCe was actually Jason’s cousin, which doesn’t make the situation much better.
Sigh. The writer just assumes everyone is a bigot. Not so. In half of US states and many countries, first cousins can legally marry.

At least we can all take solace in knowing nothing sexual ever happened during the incestuous relationship, which Jason was tricked into.
In 2017, incest proved to be a huge trend once again, thanks to both newbie CW soap Riverdale and FX’s grimy limited series Taboo. In Riverdale, it’s implied twins Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) and Jason Blossom (Trevor Stines) were a little too close for comfort until the latter sibling was murdered.
Well, murder is one thing, but affection is "too close for comfort." Great. I mean, thank goodness one of them got murdered before they could depict some serious affection! We wouldn't want anything disgusting, like sexual stuff, on there... killing someone, though, that's OK to portray.

Go read it all, if you dare, but be warned the article muddies things up by throwing assault into the mix.

Are you watching GoT? What about other shows that have, or flirt with, consanguinamory?

Read More »

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Schoolies: Should I be worried and should I try to stop them going?

Read More »

Taking the Steps

I have frequently seen the question asked, “It is incest to date my stepbrother?” or “Would marrying my stepsister be incestuous?”

Romance, dating, sex, or marriage between step relations is not literally consanguinamory, but is often subject to the same prejudices, which in some places and cases includes criminalization, as consanguinamorous relationships. With Discredited Argument #18 not a factor, the excuse to try to deny others their relationships is usually Discredited Arguments #1, 3, 19, or 21.

Although someone may try to control our relationships, we can’t effectively control what other people do with their love lives and we shouldn’t try. We don’t pick who our family members love or marry. As such, sometimes someone is brought into our lives as a step relation, such as a stepbrother, stepsister, stepmother, or stepfather whether we like it or not.

Sometimes, we like it. A lot.

Perhaps the most common connection between step relationships is when adults marry and their adolescent or young adult children, who are made stepsiblings, find they are mutually attracted. The Westermarck Effect, which describes the suppression of sexual attraction between people raised together in the same home or close quarters, isn’t experienced by everyone but doesn’t have even a chance to be experienced if young people don’t meet or don’t spend much time together until their pre-teen years or later, as often happens in these cases.

Each of us is our parent’s child. If the person we share genes with and raised us is attracted to someone, is it really surprising that we’d be attracted to that someone’s child or sibling? This is especially the case if new stepsiblings spend time under the same roof, perhaps on a full-time basis.

There is no good reason why the relationship of persons A and B should prevent the relationship of persons C and D.

But what about when one person ends up having two lovers from the same family? That can happen if there is a relationship between a stepparent and a stepchild, including cases in which the stepparent never knew the stepchild as a minor. (As always, I’m talking about consenting adults in this entry, or minors close in age to each other.) Perhaps things didn’t work out between the stepparent and the parent, or the parent died, or there’s a polyamorous situation, meaning the parent is still involved. Sometimes, someone’s stepparent is actually from their generation or at least closer in age to them than their parent, due to their parent having entered into an intergenerational relationship. The important thing to remember is that we are talking about consenting adults in these cases. One person’s prejudice against intergenerational relationships or against someone having more than one lover from the same family should not have any control over such consensual relationships.

Relationships like these have existed throughout history. There are also other relationships that have meant someone has (or has had) more than one lover from the same family. Traditional polyandry usually involves brothers marrying the same woman, and many polygynous males marry sisters. Having both mother and daughter or father and son as lovers is a common fantasy, and does happen. (I have had my own experience.)

Someone considering a relationship with a stepsibling, stepparent, or adult stepchild should make many of the same considerations as I have encouraged people to make when it comes to consanguinamorous relationships, and, if applicable, what I wrote about intergenerational relationships.

Parents may not like it when their stepchild gets together with their child, but the parent should remember that it wasn’t the children that created the environment in which they found themselves. Isn’t it better they get along rather than fight? Anyone upset about step relations getting together should read this.

Family strife is one thing. Law is another. There is no good reason to have laws discriminating against adults for their consensual relationships.

Are you, or have you been, involved with a step relation, or someone who later became one? Tell us about it by commenting.

Read More »

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Consenting Adults Still Being Prosecuted in Samoa

Deidre Tautua-Fanene reports at about another unjust and ridiculous prosecution of consenting adults for loving each other.
A brother and sister who became the subject of a Police investigation as a result of allegations of incest last month, have been charged.
Why? There is no victim to this "crime."
This was confirmed by Acting Assistant Commissioner Sala’a Moananu Sala’a.

“Police have completed their investigations and the brother and sister have been charged,” said Sala’a.

“The incident occurred in one of the villages in Savaii last month and it was the pastor who reported the incident to the Police at Vaito’omuli.

“They are scheduled to appear in Supreme Court for first mention on the 17th of July before Chief Justice, His Honor, Patu Tiavasu’e Falefatu Sapolu.
Do the right thing and throw this case out of court!
“According to the pastor, the brother and the sister go to the denomination that he looks after and he believes they are in a relationship,” Sala’a said.

“The brother is 26 years old while the sister is 18 years old.
So they are consenting adults. Leave them alone! They should be free to have sex, to hold hands, to live together, or to marry, if that's what they want.
At the moment, the brother is in custody while his sister is out on bail but has to sign in at the Vaito’omuli Police Station.
What a waste of resources! Every bit of time or money spent on such cases is time and money that could go to fighting real crimes, with actual victims.

It's another example of why full marriage equality is needed.

Read More »

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Malta Advances

Malta is getting the limited same-sex freedom to marry! Yay! Keep evolving, Malta!

Read More »

Starting or Joining a GSA at Your School

Not only are school years a time for intense personal discovery and growth, but they are usually a time of intense pressures, including the pressure to conform, and bullying.

For those reasons, Gay-Straight Alliances, or Gender and Sexuality Associations, or Diversity clubs are critical.

If your school doesn't have such an organization, consider starting one. See here and here. It's time to make plans for the next school year.

If you school already has one, consider joining and/or supporting it. Student, faculty, and parental support are all needed.

Whether starting or joining, please do what you can to make the organization welcoming, inclusive, and accepting of all whose identity, sexual orientation, relationship orientation, or existing relationship (or that of their parents) makes them a target for discrimination or bullying.

Read More »

Monday, July 10, 2017

Are You Following Us At Tumblr?

If you don't have a Tumblr account, you can still bookmark this blog's sister blog and check it on a regular basis.

Here's a recent entry there answering a question about solidarity.

Read More »