I personally do not think that a child/young person of 16 is equipped mentally and emotionally to handle a solo sailing expedition around the word, and I do believe that talented / gifted children can still be nurtured and parented whilst maintaining a sense of normality that I believe is vital when bringing up children.

Here is the Newsweek article that got me thinking.

I also believe that a 16 year old today is far more advanced as compared to when we were 16, but I still feel as a parent that it's my responsibility to ensure that my child does not grow up either too quickly or too slowly. Do you also consider this normal?

What do you think about this? I am really interested in learning what parents of young children today feel about this topic.

asked 15 Jun '10, 16:05

Emi's gravatar image

accept rate: 19%

edited 15 Jun '10, 17:48

I personally do not think that a child/young person of 16 is equipped mentally and emotionally to handle a solo sailing expedition around the word

I don't think you can evaluate a person's abilities solely on age alone, even as children. I'm quite certain that there exists one or more 16 year old human beings on the earth that, with proper training, would be able to mentally and emotionally deal with the difficulties they would face at sea. There are likely younger children than that that could deal with the situations that would arise in such an attempt.

It sounds like that's not your essential question though. You seem to be asking:

Should particularly gifted/intelligent children be allowed to take life altering/threatening risks prior to the age when average intelligence people would normally attempt such tasks?

To be blunt, yes, I think that children with the ability to do so, the desire to do so, and a strong dream should be allowed to make some such attempts.

However, that does not absolve the parents of their basic duty to provide due care and protection to their child. 16 years seems to be a bit on the young side, but would anyone have blinked at an 18 year old attempting this? How much do things change in 2 years? What about 17 years? How much change occurs in one year?

We already give 16 year olds the ability and freedom to control machines weighing a few tons at speeds exceeding 70MPH alone.

Still, how in the world did they not know exactly where their child was after some time? In this day and age with GPS, satellite phones, and emergency beacons, how would someone possibly equip their child with an expensive boat, provisions, training, and not provide 2 of each of the basic emergency safety and communications equipment that can be used?

I think sailing solo around the world, climbing Mt Everest, flying around the world, etc are extreme cases, though.

As an adult I've had to come to grips with my own limitations in terms of development and learning. I can't do everything I want to do, and if I focus on one thing, I necessarily put aside other things that may also benefit me. There is a truth to a "well rounded" person, in that someone who extends themselves to an extreme in one direction does go off balance, and will not be able to do or handle things that others take in stride.

It may be that allowing a child to focus on one thing to the exclusion of other important activities may be detrimental in the long term.


answered 15 Jun '10, 21:55

Adam%20Davis's gravatar image

Adam Davis
accept rate: 31%

edited 17 Jun '10, 02:31

+1 I like your points & also think that the gap between 16-18 is an important one, though I can't specify with anything other than a personal opinion and feelings.

(16 Jun '10, 05:45) Emi

A solo around-the-world sailing expedition is STATISTICALLY SAFER than merely driving on the freeway? Seriously? Sounds like a "back it up" moment to me.

(16 Jun '10, 18:57) lgritz

@Igritz - I can't find the data I need right now, so I've removed the claim.

(17 Jun '10, 02:33) Adam Davis

http://www.statisticstop10.com/Causes_of_Death_Older_Teens.html shows that automobile accidents account for 39.98% of deaths in 15 to 19 year olds in the United States, all drownings for 2.23%. Will that do? (I couldn't actually find any reports of someone dying while circumnavigating by sail in the modern age.)

(17 Jun '10, 06:39) Neen

Correction, (I kept looking) three men have been lost at sea while competing in the Vendee Globe which is a single handed round the world yacht race, sailed non-stop and without assistance, and two during the BOC Challenge which is a similar race done in stages. These races seem like an entirely different kettle of fish than what Abbie Sutherland was attempting.

(17 Jun '10, 07:36) Neen

It's true that only a few people die from solo sailing, but it's something that only a handful of the most skilled people on earth do to begin with. So the absolute risk of any single attempt may be quite high. At some point the risk is high enough that we would not consider a minor child to reasonably have fully understood and consented to the risk, no matter how mature they seem for their age. In contrast, almost every 16-year-old drives on the freeway quite frequently, with an extremely low (per attempt) accident rate.

(17 Jun '10, 22:10) lgritz
showing 5 of 6 show 1 more comments

I had the same reaction to this news article about a 13 year-old boy climbing Everest.

My thoughts were less about safety than about the psychological effects of achieving your "life's dream" - and becoming a celebrity - at the age of 13. How can it go anywhere but downhill after that?


answered 16 Jun '10, 05:15

Benjol's gravatar image

accept rate: 5%

+1 Yes, the point about the psychological effects is important.

(16 Jun '10, 05:46) Emi

After you achieve one life's dream, you probably just get another. ;)

(16 Jun '10, 16:08) Scott ♦♦

According to the BMJ (as quoted in this web article: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/5281344.stm), one person dies attempting a Mt Everest climb for every ten that make it to the top. Holy moly, 10% death rate! How can anybody justify allowing a child take that kind of risk?

(16 Jun '10, 19:00) lgritz

@Igritz, yup, I would never trust myself to have the purest of motives in this kind of situation. The dangers of parents - even unconsciously - living out their dreams through their children is just too high in my opinion.

(17 Jun '10, 04:42) Benjol

And furthermore, I don't see how anybody who is too young to sign a contract, get a credit card on their own, or rent a car (all because they are legally presumed to not yet be mature enough to give the kind of full consent that an adult would) could somehow be fully understanding and consenting to that kind of out-of-the-ordinary risk.

(17 Jun '10, 22:13) lgritz

Interesting questions, Emi. For now, a few thoughts. I'll likely edit this later into a more thought out response.

  • There are no major differences in the brain chemistry of today's teenagers than 100 years ago, or even 1000 years ago. If there are differences in maturity of today's teens versus a generation or two ago, I would ascribe them mostly to societal changes.
  • Individuals will reach different levels of maturity at different points in their development. Some individuals never make it out of a 13-year-old mindset (and I'm only slightly joking ;).
  • I don't know Abby Sunderland, so I'm in no position to judge, if I were her parent, if I would let her attempt the solo sailing expedition.

answered 15 Jun '10, 21:30

Scottie%20T's gravatar image

Scottie T
accept rate: 15%

+1 I also agree that teen maturity is probably down to societal changes and stimuli and not in the brain chemistry itself. The family in the article seem to have a particular passion for sailing it seems, as the 17 year old brother completed the same journey a year ago apparently, so like you I am in not position to judge whether she should or shouldn't have attempted the trip. What has intrigued me is the overall story itself. (Great point about 13 year old mindset :) It could be more common than we think apparently!)

(16 Jun '10, 05:55) Emi

There are major differences in brain chemistry and hormonal makeup: The onset of puberty moved forward. This can not be explained just by societal changes...

(16 Jun '10, 10:40) brandstaetter

@brandstaetter I have not researched it to be able to make any solid comments, but I would be very interested in hearing proven facts. I can only guess that maybe external factors may have contributed to the change.(factors meaning diet, lifestyle, education, wealth, ....etc

(16 Jun '10, 10:49) Emi
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Asked: 15 Jun '10, 16:05

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Last updated: 17 Jun '10, 02:31