Young Adults: Relationships and Health (cont.)
Moderator: Are there timeless concerns young adults face in their relationships?
Dr. Drew: Yeah. The timeless concern is managing the changing biological milieu they find themselves in. Kids enter adolescence with unfinished business of childhood and have to manage it with changing biology, and tend to try to solve them in personal spheres and they're barely if not poorly equipped to do so.
Moderator: Have relationships amongst young adults changed over time, or pretty much remained the same as always?
Dr. Drew: No, it's changed dramatically! We didn't have adolescence at the turn of the century, there was no such concept. Romeo and Juliet were 14. You were expected to live until you were 30.
Moderator: How have times changed since you were a "young adult"?
Dr. Drew: With the advent of a longer education, the family of origin, the transition into the workplace, the adolescence developed and in that period, people showed the tendency to solve the problems of childhood through adolescence. I was born in 1958 and I have the sensibilities of the baby boomers, but was socializing too with Gen X, and Gen Y is changing things again. There was a distinct change and I knew what they were up to, and talked to them on the radio which was by happenstance. And, no one was acknowledging any of it and we were a far cry from teaching them what they need to know .... AIDS was on the horizon and I felt someone needed to talk to them. So there was the change in the increasing laxity of their behavior ... in using drugs and alcohol and using interpersonal experience as a way of feeling better in the moment as opposed to growing out of a healthy intimacy ... it became "fun." And, the culture of course again pushed it into the direction it's gone. It's gone more and more in that direction, but things have turned around a little bit, there's a trend towards abstinence and delaying first intercourse ... but it's barely acknowledged.
Moderator: How do you feel about some of the problems kids are voicing to you on Love Line? How have your feeling changed over the run of the show?
Dr. Drew: Again, I'd say that my concern initially was so much focused on infectious diseases that it took getting that under control before you could turn your attention to difficult issues of dealing with dysfunctions of the interpersonal experiences. My feelings haven't changed that much. I do a radio show five nights a week, a television show. The basic content is similar night to night, but I'm amazed that I don't get frustrated or burned out ... it's the fact that it's a young person in need having an important experience that you can relate to. So, it's making a contact with a person in need that I find so fulfilling. So my fundamental feeling about the experience of all this really hasn't changed all that much.
Moderator: Statistics lately have suggested that a larger number of young adults, adolescents really, are experimenting sexually. Why do you think that is?
Dr. Drew: I think that number is getting better. I don't understand the question. The average age of first intercourse is 16 and it's been that way for some time. The general culture, not the prevailing culture, but they have an increasing understanding that this is an important thing and that's good. The reason there's been so much sexual acting out over the years is fundamentally the breakdown of the family and then a culture at large, which is telling kids that this is a good thing without giving any thought to what they're putting out to young people. And, then the kids do this as an affect as opposed to expressing intimacy ... and it's unhealthy to use sex as a drug, and they should use emotional resources to regulate affected states. The society can help with that as opposed to pushing it in the direction it's been going. It's difficult to change young persons' behavior. You can't do it by educating them, they have a fantastic knowledge base, but behavior changes very little. Use of humor and music has been shown to be effective in reaching them, they have to have relatable cases. Young people do the same thing.... they accept it and assimilate it when they trust it, and they only trust it when they hear the consequences of their peers' actions. We have to go into their culture and deliver on their terms or they ain't gonna get it! We may not like doing that, but we have to think in terms of stealth and not health, and that's how you get the message across.
Moderator: How influential is the media in contributing to the sexual identity and maturation of young adults?
Dr. Drew: Well, the age of puberty is declining. Does the media contribute to that by inappropriately stimulating them? I don't think it does. I think it does by traumatizing them with material they aren't equipped to handle, or putting out things that may be normative but are not normative or may be normative but is not healthy. And, they tend to get followed.
Moderator: What advice would you give to a young adult who is exploring feelings of homosexuality?
Dr. Drew: The most important thing is to talk to young adults who've been through it. The thing they need the most of is support. You have to remember that depression and suicide is the highest in the young homosexual male, and they need to be dealt with with care and diligently. It's important that they be treated. And, if they're struggling with identity issues, there's lots of gay and lesbian centers out there. And, then having a network of peers who are gay to support you ... some place you can retreat, in case the prevailing peer group doesn't support you the way you wish they would.
Moderator: How would you convince parents who think otherwise?
Dr. Drew: It depends what their issue is. Is there some policy at the school that separate groups are not allowed to organize on campus? I can't argue with policy, but if it's about being gay, I suggest you bring clinicians in and explain what happens to these kids if you don't give them the necessary resources. The other kids are just scared and they don't understand.