Emotional health is necessary for physical health. Human beings often become mentally and emotionally disturbed because of self-condemnation related to problems of sex which they do not understand. Social and cultural considerations which regulate human sex behavior are more rigid than the biological considerations. These considerations define what is moral much more definitely than do biologic and medical science.
In various portions of the United States the attitudes of people vary a great deal as to the ordinary relationships between the sexes. In some portions of the country it would be considered a gross violation of domestic relations for a married man to have lunch with a married woman other than his wife. In other branches of American society, and this refers of course particularly to our larger cities, such ordinary meetings are within the pattern of everyday social existence.
When a young man moves in the United States from one community to another he may require several months to find out the restrictions on conduct which are considered suitable to the new community. Up to 1915 people paid little attention to inhibitions, and did not fret much about these matters. Since that time public education on psychological subjects has created fear among many people of being considered “inhibited.”
Professor John C. Whitehorn of Johns Hopkins University has classified maturity of human beings on a five-point scale. People who are infantile in their emotional attitudes are likely to be dependent on their parents or substitutes for the parent—a governess or nurse—and to expect infinite amounts of service and tolerance from the parents. Sometimes men and women of advanced years retain this infantile attitude until the death of the parent or some forced separation, which may be quite tragic in their lives. Thus, a woman thirty-eight years old, who was subject to repeated moody spells, had that kind of dependence, and had to have somone strong on whom to lean in all her difficult situations. The child who has been “teacher’s pet” will have to be the “boss’s favorite” when he gets a job.
The second level is the childish level. The child develops some sense of personal responsibility but can always get rid of it by an excuse. The child still has to have complete trust in some other person. People who grow up and maintain their childish level are those who always find excuses for the failures, alibis for their weakness and who “pass the buck” whenever confronted with difficult situations.
The child during the period of puberty with its development of secondary sexual characteristics really goes through two periods, which may be called early adolescence and late adolescence. The child in early adolescence begins to have a drive for self-assertion and begins to resent parental domination. Just as the male animal shows his best characteristics for the attraction of the female, so also the boy in early adolescence begins to show off and indulge in contests in which he can demonstrate superiority. The boy’s room begins to be filled with trophies won at the track or in the swimming-pool or at other sports. The girl’s room begins to be decorated with programs of dances, souvenirs of parties, and knickknacks accumulated on dates.
As late adolescence develops “dating” becomes the most important aspect of life. If this passes on to what boys and girls call “going steady,” difficult mental situations may develop. Parents frequently try to dominate the situation, because of economic, religious, or purely emotional factors. These situations may lead to emotional disturbances in the young that may mark the life of the growing youth for many years thereafter.
Finally, adults are supposed to have a balanced perspective and to adjust themselves to various social roles, but adults still need affection, security, and well-established relationships toward other people. If the adult has failed to mature and depends heavily on the affection of others, if he requires definite signs of favoritism he is unlikely to be able to develop a satisfactory marriage, and may react emotionally to situations which he himself cannot solve. Professor Whitehorn is convinced that the chances for good marriage-adjustment among people who reach mature years without overcoming infantile dependence on affection are slight. It seems to be an American trait to strive toward perfection in marriage relationship, and most psychologists believe that a little less perfectionism would lead to much greater satisfaction in many disturbed marriages.