How can it be that emotional problems and their symptoms of drug and alcohol abuse, depression, self-harm behaviors and the like are appearing among teens of affluent families at a rate that we once thought was only associated with child abuse and deprivation?
In The Price of Privilege, Madeline Levine, PhD, exposes both the epidemic of mental health issues occurring among the youth of affluent families and sheds light on why it is happening.
Dismayed that her own teen patients were showing more and more signs of angst, hopelessness and a general malaise of "emptiness," Dr. Levine contacted colleagues in disparate areas of the country and found the phenomenon to be disturbingly ubiquitous.
Dr. Levine's subsequent research pointed to many commonalities shared by these disturbed young teens and their families, some of which are the following:
- Parents who are over-involved in their teens' lives, but who are at the same time emotionally disconnected from their children
- Permissive parenting styles
- Families who focus on money and materialistic ideals
- Teens who are pressured to succeed in a manner defined by their parents, with little regard for the intrinsic needs and talents of their children
- Competition replacing co-operation among siblings and teen friends
- Emotionally immature teens who have little concept of values such as responsibility, serving others, respect for themselves and others, the value of hard work and the like
Although some of what Dr. Levine describes may make us uncomfortable, her goal is not to reprimand us as parents but to remind us of what is truly important in our relationships with our children, such as:
- Guiding our children to find themselves rather than pushing them to fulfill our dreams and narcissistic needs
- Being firm about expectations, which includes both the "how" and the "why" of parental demands
- Learning how to be "in control" without being "controlling"
- Helping teens see and maximize their strengths rather than pushing them through criticism and rejection
Dr. Levine is clearly aware of the difficulties of parenting and empathetic with the added complexities that accompany today's career-oriented mothers as well as fathers.
As Dr. Levine clearly illustrates through numerous riveting case examples, children who grow up with too much material abundance often experience the same problems as children who grow up with too little. Both phenomena result in the child's inability to negotiate the developmental milestones of life and leave him or her with precious little understanding of who he or she is and what his or her place is in the world.
For more on this topic, please see Out of Control Teens - How Did We Get Here?
by the reviewer.
1 Luthar, S. S., & Sexton, C. (2005). The high price of affluence. In Kail, R. (Ed.), Advances in child development. San Diego: Academic Press, as cited in Levine, M. (2006). The Price of Privilege. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Levine, M. (2006). The price of privilege: How parental pressure and material advantage are creating a generation of disconnected and unhappy kids. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
About the Author:
Leon Pyle, PhD, is a Licensed CA Psychologist, an OR Licensed Professional Counselor, a High School Therapist and is the originator of Tandemjourney.org. Leon has worked in schools, community and urban psychotherapy centers, with male spousal abusers, with male and female prison populations, and has maintained a private therapy practice for adults and adolescents.
Thank you for this great review. After a journey of spiritual wandering I found home in the Quaker tradition. A big piece of this is their recognition of the cost of living unconsciously in a world compelled more and more toward materialism. Certainly, our children pay a terrible price when we lose our way as a society that seeks more and more to find fulfillment in empty treasures. The other side is my seeing the joy of families that re-discover and reconnect to the joys of simple living, family time together, laughter and play.
Thanks for the valuable reminder.