An Unchanged Mind

The Problem of Immaturity in Adolescence

John A McKinnon, MD



John McKinnon addresses what has to me been the most pressing question of the past two decades: why is it that our children seem to be “getting stuck,” developmentally speaking, at ages well below what I remember of adolescent maturity? And then, of course, the real question: What on earth are we to do about it?

I’m very happy to say that his book is filled with insight and with hope. My hope is that every parent and teacher read it long before the children in their care become teenagers – his insights will help avert some of the problem because it is so much easier to prevent than to “fix” these things.

My larger hope is that the wisdom of this book will come to permeate our society as a whole, for it is ultimately a collective healing that is called for.


An Unchanged Mind begins with a clinical riddle: Why are American teenagers failing to develop normally through adolescence? We are presented with case studies from a therapeutic boarding school for troubled teenagers: All new students had been deemed treatment “failures” after conventional psychiatric care. All were bright teenagers, full of promise, not obviously “ill.” Yet they found themselves unprepared for the challenges of modern adolescence and inevitably failed—at school, at home, and among their peers socially.

An Unchanged Mind is the discovery of the essence of this problem—disrupted maturation and resulting immaturity. The book explains the problem carefully, with a brief review of normal development and an examination of the delays today’s teenagers are suffering: the causes of those delays and how they produce a flawed approach to living. There is a solution. With a sustained push to help troubled kids catch up, symptoms abate, academic and interpersonal functioning improve, and parents pronounce their teens miraculously recovered. This remedy is not a matter of pharmacology—and the cure is not in pills. The remedy is, instead, to grow up.

McKinnon’s inspiring message is that no behavioral problem along these lines is hopeless. He shows how he has done it.

—Evander Lomke, Executive Director, American Mental Health Foundation

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