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September 2001 Vol. 16, No. 9   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The Emotionally- Mature- Kid Oxymoron

from the September, 2001 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Whether children should be allowed to dive has led to quite a debate among the medical and professional community, with most members strongly opposed. One of the more vocal critics is Larry Harris Taylor, Ph.D., a biochemist and Diving Safety Coordinator at the University of Michigan. We thought that seeing how intense the feelings have grown on this issue might be useful to our readers.

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The concept of a physically, mentally and emotionally mature kid is at best, an oxymoron. At worst, its nothing more than economic predation from an industry whose quality of education is being killed by the cancer of greed-driven mediocrity. The lesson of history (e.g. the Challenger launch, etc.) is that once decisions are based on a perceived need to increase funding, these decisions are often NOT in the best interest of the participants. In this case, the children are now freed to become scuba divers.

In addition to the accompanying article by Doc Vikingo, I have these concerns :

The denial of risk, coupled with the perpetual decline of standards, has resulted in an increased cost of scuba liability insurance and very large payments to plaintiffs in civil court. This, in my opinion, amounts to nothing more than a cash donation from the scuba c-card vendors to the legal profession. Since c-card vendors are making a profit, this means that we who dive pay the expense of this financial transaction! I suspect that the obscene amounts paid to adult plaintiffs in scuba-related litigation will be trivial compared with what will be paid for injuries to kids. (Ask any pediatrician about how juries tend to ignore facts when kids are involved and see only greedy defendants and an injured or missing child.)

Some adults, after DCS hits, show negative changes in personality (depression, paranoia, dysfunctional behavior). A personality change suggests that brain structure has been altered. Should this happen to a child, there is reason to believe that the childs brain tissue will, compared with an adult, be more likely to be injured. Furthermore, there is no way of predicting what, if any, effect diving will have on personality development.

One of the more disturbing aspects of this only training MATURE youngsters is the growing body of evidence that indicates those who enter puberty before their peers (the ones a mom and scuba instructor would most likely label mature) are the ones most likely to get into trouble with their risk-seeking behavior. While their hormones are raging, their ability to evaluate risks to themselves and others does not develop until the concrete thinking phase of development has passed (somewhere around age 15-17). Thus, parents and instructors choosing mature youngsters may very well be choosing those most likely to get into trouble.

My recommendation: Parents should refrain from allowing their kids to dive until they trust the kid to drive the familys most expensive automobile to the dive training site.

PS: If you want to see more of what Dr. Taylor has to say, visit his website at www.mindspring.com/~divegeek.

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