RESEARCH ON PRETEENS AND TEENS
FROM AFFLUENT, WELL-EDUCATED FAMILIES
In her book, The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation Of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids, (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, ©2006), Madeline Levine, Ph.D. presents the latest research on trends and behaviors of preteens and teens from affluent, well-educated families. Her findings are disturbing: They are a call to action, especially for affluent parents of young children and adolescents, if these prevalent trends are to be addressed.
In The Price of Privilege Dr. Levine presents eight facts (listed below) and presents and discusses the research that supports each fact.
FACT #1: “America’s newly identified at-risk group is preteens and teens from affluent, well-educated families. In spite of their economic and social advantages, ‘children of affluence’ experience among the highest rates of depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorders, somatic complaints, and unhappiness of any group of children in this country.”
FACT #2: “In teen years, who kids hang out with is as important, if not more important, than parents’ influence. In later years, parents’ values and influence predominate again, as they did in a child’s earlier years.”
FACT #3: “Parents of affluent children hesitate more than any other group to seek professional help for their children.”
FACT #4: “Two main factors behind teens’ emotional problems are achievement pressure and isolation from parents.”
FACT #5: “Because money and material objects are plentiful in comfortable homes, they often become the default motivator when parents want to change their children’s behavior.”
FACT #6: “Many children from affluent homes have not had enough opportunity to work on their self-management skills because parents are quick to limit their child’s frustration and distress.” (Self-management skills = set of skills that allow children to regulate their internal states as well as their relationships with others.)
FACT #7: “Behavioral control is a positive technique (includes being an authority, setting and enforcing boundaries) that helps kids feel in control. Psychological control is a destructive technique (intrudes into a child’s psychological space
and attempts to manipulate a child’s thought and feelings via guilt, shame and anxiety) that leaves kids feeling controlled.”
FACT #8: “Most of us [as parents] ‘do’ connection well. Connection is how we began our relationship with our children; it is the gratifying part of being a parent. This may be the reason why younger affluent children do not appear to have the disproportionately high rates of emotional problems seen in their preadolescent and adolescent counterparts.”