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Indigo children

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Indigo children
Terminology
Coined by Nancy Ann Tappe
Definition A group of children possessing special traits; beliefs about the traits vary from paranormal abilities (e.g., ESP) to simply being more confident and sensitive.
Signature An indigo colored aura
Status Pseudoscience
See also Auras

Indigo children is a pseudo-scientific label given to children who are claimed to possess special, unusual and/or supernatural traits or abilities. The idea is based on New Age concepts developed in the 1970s by Nancy Ann Tappe. The concept of indigo children gained popular interest with the publication of a series of books in the late 1990s and the release of several films in the following decade. A variety of books, conferences and related materials have been created surrounding belief in the idea of indigo children and their nature and abilities. These beliefs range from their being the next stage in human evolution or possessing paranormal abilities such as telepathy to the belief that they are simply more empathic and creative than their peers.

Although there are no scientific studies to give credibility to the existence of any indigo children, or their traits, the phenomenon appeals to some parents whose children have been diagnosed with learning disabilities and parents seeking to believe that their children are special. This is viewed by skeptics as a way for parents to avoid proper pediatric pharmaceutical treatment or a psychiatric diagnosis which implies imperfection. The list of traits used to describe the children has also been criticized for being vague enough to be applied to almost anyone, a form of the Forer effect. The phenomenon has been criticized as a means of making money from credulous parents through the sales of related products and services.

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[edit] Origins

The term "indigo children" originates with parapsychologist and self-described synesthete and psychic, Nancy Ann Tappe who developed the concept in the 1970s. Tappe published the book Understanding Your Life Through Color in 1982 describing the concept,[1] stating that during the mid 1960s she began noticing that many children were being born with "indigo" auras[2][3] (in other publications Tappe has said the color indigo came from the "life colors" of the children which she acquired through her synesthesia[4]). The idea was later popularized by the 1998 book The Indigo Children: The New Kids Have Arrived, written by husband and wife self-help lecturers Lee Carroll and Jan Tober.[5] The promotion of the concept by Tober and Carroll brought greater publicity to the topic, soon their book became the primary source on "indigo children". They describe the goal of indigo children to be a remaking of the world into one lacking war, trash and processed food.

In 2002, an international conference on indigo children was held in Hawaii, drawing 600 attendees, with subsequent conferences the following years in Florida and Oregon. The concept was popularized and spread further by a feature film and documentary released in 2005, both directed by James Twyman, a New Age writer.[6]

Susan W. Whedon suggests in an 2009 article in Nova Religio that the social construction of Indigo Children is a response to an "apparent crisis of American childhood."[2] Whedon explains that the crisis is evident in the increase in "diagnoses of ADD and ADHD in American children", and that "heightened awareness of youth violence" caused parents to "take matters in their own hands."[2] Parents began medicating and diagnosing their offspring as Indigo Children as a means of "redeeming"[2] them for their improper behavior stemming from ADD and ADHD.[2]

[edit] Characteristics

Descriptions of indigo children include the belief that they are empathetic, curious, strong-willed, independent, and often perceived by friends and family as being strange; possess a clear sense of self-definition and purpose; and also exhibit a strong inclination towards spiritual matters from early childhood. Indigo children have also been described as having a strong feeling of entitlement, or "deserving to be here." Other alleged traits include a high intelligence quotient, an inherent intuitive ability, and resistance to authority.[3][5] According to Tober and Carroll, indigo children function poorly in conventional schools due to their rejection of authority, being smarter than their teachers, and a lack of response to guilt-, fear- or manipulation-based discipline.[6]

[edit] Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder

Many children labelled indigo by their parents are diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)[7] and Tober and Carroll's book The Indigo Children linked the concept with diagnosis of ADHD. Their book makes the case that the children are a new stage of evolution rather than children with a medical diagnosis, and that they require special treatment rather than medications.[5] Robert Todd Carroll points out that labeling a child an indigo is an alternative to a diagnosis that implies imperfection, damage or mental illness, which may appeal to many parents, a belief echoed by many academic psychologists.[7] He also points out that many of the commentators on the indigo phenomenon are of varying qualifications and expertise. Linking the concept of indigo children with the distaste for the use of Ritalin to control ADHD, Carroll states "The hype and near-hysteria surrounding the use of Ritalin has contributed to an atmosphere that makes it possible for a book like Indigo Children to be taken seriously. Given the choice, who wouldn't rather believe their children are special and chosen for some high mission rather than that they have a brain disorder?"[8]

Stephen Hinshaw, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, states that concerns regarding the overmedicalization of children are legitimate but even gifted children with ADHD learn better with more structure rather than less, even if the structure initially causes difficulties. Many labeled as indigo children are or have been home schooled.[3]

[edit] Criticism

According to research psychologist Russell Barkley, the New Age movement has yet to produce empirical evidence of the existence of indigo children and the 17 traits most commonly attributed to them were akin to the Forer effect; i.e. so vague they could describe nearly anyone. Many critics see the concept of indigo children as made up of extremely general traits, a sham diagnosis that is an alternative to a medical diagnosis, with a complete lack of science or studies to support it.[3][7] The lack of science is acknowledged by some believers, including Doreen Virtue, author of The Care and Feeding of Indigos, and James Twyman, who produced two films on Indigo Children and offers materials and courses related to the phenomenon. Virtue has been criticized for claiming to have a Ph.D, though this was awarded by California Coast University, a then-unaccredited institution sometimes accused of being a diploma mill.[6]

Mental health experts are concerned that labeling a disruptive child an "Indigo" may delay proper diagnosis and treatment that may help the child.[3][6] Others have stated that many of the traits of indigo children could be more prosaically interpreted as simple unruliness and alertness.[7]

In a Dallas Observer article discussing indigo children, a reporter recorded the following interaction between a man who worked with Indigo children, and a purported Indigo child:

"Are you an indigo?" he asked Dusk. The boy looked at him shyly and nodded. "I'm an avatar," Dusk said. "I can recognize the four elements of earth, wind, water and fire. The next avatar won't come for 100 years." The man seemed impressed.[6]

Readers of the Dallas Observer later wrote in to inform the newspaper that the child's response appeared to be taken from the storyline of Avatar: The Last Airbender, an animated series showing on Nickelodeon at the time of the interview. The editor of the Dallas Observer later admitted they were not aware of the possible connection until readers brought it to their attention.[9]

Nick Colangelo, a University of Iowa professor specializing in the education of gifted children, stated that the first indigo book should not have been published, and that "...[t]he Indigo Children movement is not about children, and it is not about the color indigo. It is about adults who style themselves as experts and who are making money on books, presentations and videos."[6]

[edit] Commercialization

According to Lorie Anderson's article "Indigo: The Color of Money", belief in indigo children has significant commercial value due to sales of book, video, and one-on-one counseling session for children, as well as in donations and speaking engagements.[10] There are now a wide variety of books, films, summer camps and conferences that are aimed at parents who believe their children are indigos. The two films produced on the subject were both by James Twyman, who sells a variety of indigo-themed courses, clothing, books, CDs and movies.[6]

[edit] References

  1. ^ Tappe, NA (1986). Understanding your life through color: Metaphysical concepts in color and aura. Starling Publishers. ISBN 0-940399-00-8.
  2. ^ a b c d e Whedon, Sarah W. (2009-02). "The Wisdom of Indigo Children: An Emphatic Restatement of the Value of American Children" (PDF). Nova Religio 12 (3): 60–76. doi:10.1525/nr.2009.12.3.60. http://caliber.ucpress.net/doi/pdfplus/10.1525/nr.2009.12.3.60. Retrieved 2010-06-25.
  3. ^ a b c d e Leland, J (2006-01-12). "Are They Here to Save the World?". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/12/fashion/thursdaystyles/12INDIGO.html?ei=5088&en=277fb750ad762ed9&ex=1294722000&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&pagewanted=all. Retrieved 2009-04-15.
  4. ^ Tappe, NA. "All About Indigos - A Nancy Tappe Website". http://www.allaboutindigos.com/. Retrieved 2009-04-15.
  5. ^ a b c Tober J & Carroll LA (1999). The Indigo Children: The New Kids Have Arrived. Light Technology Publishing. ISBN 1-56170-608-6.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Hyde, J (2006-03-09). "Little Boy Blue". Dallas Observer. http://www.dallasobserver.com/2006-03-09/news/little-boy-blue/full. Retrieved 2009-04-15.
  7. ^ a b c d Jayson, S (2005-05-31). "Indigo kids: Does the science fly?". USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2005-05-31-indigo-kids_x.htm. Retrieved 2007-10-23.
  8. ^ Carroll, RT (2009-02-23). "Indigo child". The Skeptic's Dictionary. http://skepdic.com/indigo.html. Retrieved 2009-04-13.
  9. ^ "Letters to the Dallas Observer". Dallas Observer. 2006-03-16. http://www.dallasobserver.com/2006-03-16/news/new-age-mumbo-jumbo/full. Retrieved 2007-10-23.
  10. ^ Anderson, L (2003-12-01). "Indigo: the color of money". Selectsmart.com. http://www.selectsmart.com/twyman.html. Retrieved 2010-09-24.

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