THE HUMAN INVINCIBILITY COMPLEX
Sky diving, rock climbing, and parkour are all popular extreme sports for those humans who love the rush of death defying activities, also known as adrenaline junkies. The draw of these thrilling sports is understandable; to stare death in the face and come out victorious is both exhilarating and just plain old fun. But is the popularity of these extreme activities an expression of a deeper human flaw? According to Professor David Elkind, a child psychologist, the human perception of invincibility is a normal human development phase. Teens in particular don’t feel that they are susceptible to risky or dangerous behavior. These behaviors include everything from intense participation in sports to committing crimes, to having unprotected sex. Proof of this is quantified in UNICEF’s 2001 report on Teen Births in Rich Nations. In this report, one of the key findings was the teen pregnancy rate for the United States. With a staggering 52.1 out of 1000 girls giving birth while still a teenager, the USA far outnumbers other developed countries when it comes to teen births. Although this phase of invincibility is said to be at its peak during early adolescence, the “it won’t happen to me” mentality can be clearly seen in the habits of many adults in America. One of the most troubling displays of our false perception of invincibility is the prevalence of parents and pregnant women who choose to smoke cigarettes either during pregnancy or in the home after the child is born.
The health risks of smoke, both first and second hand, are outlined in a USNEWS Health video . When smoke is inhaled, the body goes through incredible measures to protect itself. The lining of the throat becomes covered in mucus to protect the lining from harmful toxins in cigarettes. After prolonged exposure to smoke, the body’s natural defenses against infections are weakened. For children in particular smoke exposure is very dangerous because they do not yet have fully developed immune systems and can’t as readily fight infections.
Exposure to secondhand smoke can also affect children in the long term. Parental smoking has been linked to increased probability of obesity in children as well as heart disease later in life. The EPO recently concluded that if a child experiences prolonged secondhand smoke exposure they could develop asthma.
With the health hazards of smoking around children so blatantly advertized in anti-smoking commercials and other media, why do parents still do it? The majority of the parents who smoke in their home would say that they would do anything to protect their children from harm. A classic example of the extreme lengths to which a mother would go to save her child is that of 50 year old Angela Cavalo who lifted a car off of her son who was trapped beneath. Many parents insist that they indeed would do the same. SO why does this parental instinct to protect fail them when it comes to smoking in the home? The magazine Psychology Today had an article on the tendency people have to ignore long term consequences in favor of short term gratification. This could be the way that some parents rationalize risky habits such as smoking near their children. Could the human invincibility complex be outweighing millions of years of evolution and parental instincts?
Posted by Erica Bonnell (1)