Adult centrism refers to the existence of behaviors, beliefs, and an asymmetrical way of relating between adults and other age groups: children, adolescents, and older people.

By Lic. Vilma Perren

From this point of view, adults are installed as a reference model about the vision of the world, exercising power over the appearance, desires, and needs of the aforementioned age groups.

In this way, power is exercised over them, resulting in a subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) form of violence in relationships, as these gazes, desires, and needs are degraded, ignored, or invalidated.

For example, here are some phrases:

“Children don’t have problems.”

“It’s that old people are like children again”.

“I wish I had the “problems” you have when you are 15 years old, problems are those of adult life!

“You’re too young to understand”

“You’re too old to dress like that”.

“At your age you are not ready to start that activity”.

Do they sound familiar? Have we heard them? Have we said them?

These and many other phrases reveal the extent to which adult-centrism is installed in our culture.

To get out of this violent and objectifying attitude, it is necessary to observe the other, to realize that an old person “is not like a child”, he/she is a person who has gone through a long history, with his/her own needs and desires, which often do not (and do not have to) coincide with those of the adults around him/her.

It is important for children to understand that they often need to have things explained to them and to be told: “You are too young to understand that” reveals our inability to communicate or explain adequately rather than the child’s inability to do so.

Just like adolescents, who are going through their own phase of life, different, complex, in which they experience many profound changes: physical, emotional, bonding, etc. Recognizing, validating and accompanying them in these processes is a truly healthy adult attitude.

Learning to SEE the other, accepting that our position as adults is also characteristic of the vital stage we are going through, a product of our experiences and beliefs, but which does not mean that it is “the yardstick by which to measure” any other look, belief or behavior.

More humility, less objectification, more listening and respect for what is different will allow us to move away from an adult-center stance.

Vilma Perren
Clinical Psychologist – Logotherapist
Founder of GARVA (Grupo de Asistencia y Recuperación de Vínculos Adictivos).
She coordinates groups and workshops on relationships.
Author of the book: La sanación viene de dentro (Healing comes from within).