Among literary and journalistic genres, the investigative autobiography is a relative rarity, but our guest Kenneth R. Rosen’s new book Troubled fills the bill. The subtitle, The Failed Promise of America’s Behavioral Treatment Programs, points to the investigative subject, but it is Ken Rosen’s personal experience as a “troubled youth” with the so-called “tough love” approach to Behavioral Treatment that makes his work unique.
While the label suggests that the “schools” that specialize in Behavioral Treatment are all about psychology and care, Rosen’s experience, and the experiences of other “clients” described in the book suggest that these “boarding schools” are longer on psycho-jargon than care and apply a lot more toughness than love.
The Behavioral Treatment industry, Rosen shows in the book, is just another instance of industrial-strength opportunists monetizing a market. The growing supply of “troubled youths” is part and parcel of American society in the Twentyfirst Century, a society of two-earner families in which parents have less and less time, energy and inclination to supervise their kids, and in which radically-reduced budgets for public education and community recreation offer fewer opportunities to keep kids beneficially occupied.
In short, in America today, more and more “troubled” children have more and more unsupervised time on their hands to act out their problems and get deeper into trouble. And more and more the remedy sought out by parents with money, or school systems, juvenile corrections systems and local communities is to hand off kids and their troubles to someone else to handle, preferably someone far away.
Behavioral Treatment has become a booming and highly profitable business, even though the treatments provided can be random or worse, and the providers themselves neither qualified nor — sometimes — particularly interested in helping a young person out of trouble.
Kenneth R. Rosen is an American journalist and author. He won the Bayeux-Calvados Awards for war correspondents, a Clarion Award, and was a finalist for the Livingston Award. His new book is Troubled. His previous book was Bulletproof Vest. He has reported for the New York Times and Newsweek as well as other news organizations.