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The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids
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The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids

3.82  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,682 Ratings  ·  263 Reviews
Madeline Levine has been a practicingpsychologist for twenty-five years, but it was only recently that she began to observe a new breed of unhappy teenager. When a bright, personable fifteen-year-old girl, from a loving and financially comfortable family, came into her office with the word empty carved into her left forearm, Levine was startled. This girl and her message s ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published July 3rd 2006 by Harper (first published January 1st 2006)
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Jul 22, 2011 Sara rated it really liked it
I figured I should read this since I work with 'affluent' children and I'm certainly glad I did. Depression, anxiety, suicide, self mutilating behaviors, and eating disorders (and to some degree even substance abuse) are far more pervasive among teens in wealthy households. For the most part, these children have had no opportunity to create an authentic sense of self as they are shuttled from activity to activity by parents who put too much value on competition and grades as an indication of suc ...more
Paul Fulcher
Feb 23, 2015 Paul Fulcher rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
I'll start my review with the negatives of the book, as they mostly come up front, and one get over them to access the significant amount of useful material that the book does contain.

The first 35 pages (15% of the book) are spent telling us why we should read it, rather unnecessary as if we've ploughed through 35 pages we obviously don't need convincing, and often in over dramatic terms ("adolescent suicide has quadrupled since 1950"), which actually serve to weaken the impact of the message ("
May 05, 2008 Amy rated it it was amazing
A book every parent (or person who works around children) should read -- affluent or not.

The book mentions how much value we place on what our children do (honor roll, colleges, who can read first, etc) and not on who they are as people. How many affluent, suburban families have lost what is really important. The other point that really got me was the illusion of the perfect suburban mom. How suburban moms feel that they need to be perfect and show the world that they and their children are per
D.M. Dutcher
Jun 18, 2011 D.M. Dutcher rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Interesting book, with some good points to it. Some devastating statistics if true: elite, wealthy kids have some staggering rates of pathology. But the book has a great point that I've never seen addressed.

Essentially it's this: by allowing teens real choice without parental pressure, we allow them to build an authentic self: an "interior home." When we don't, when we micromanage their lives by putting pressure on them, even for their own good, we don't allow them to develop a self. Instead, th
Sep 07, 2009 Rebecca rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It took me all summer to read this -- because I could only do it in 15 minute bursts before I was so angry I wanted to throw the book. so I'd close the book and take a break.

ok. the substance--the legitimate worth--of this book is old news. It's fine enough to be reminded that children need care and attention from parents (and the adults in their lives), that putting children in pressure-cookers of achievement and externally-gauged success is a recipe for critically unhappy children who will lik
Apr 24, 2008 Elizabeth rated it liked it
The chapter on child development/stages and how to parent to each particular age is concisely written and helpful to re-read to refresh my memory - one of the reasons I'm keeping the book.

Her insights based on her own family are more compelling than her case studies. Her own experiences as a mother with a family that fits the model she is writing about helps to humanize her and give her credibility. I wish she included more examples from her own experience.

My favorite phrase she uses is: "See
May 05, 2015 Jeanette rated it really liked it
It's a hard message, but needs to be heard. Many people perceive this psychologist as "hard". She's not. She's accurate. There are a lot of angry and unhappy young people who have not developed in the stages most advantageous toward a level of emotional maturity that holds more positive independence and self acceptance. Some are suspended for long years in states of self-involved depression or self-identity tension with destruction. This isn't just a problem of privilege either, and I think she ...more
Oct 01, 2011 Ciara rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
written by a therapist who seems to specialize in working with troubled, affluent teens, this book is an examination of the psychological issues afflicting teenagers from a background or culture of class privilege.

what i liked: the author took pains to state that although this book focused on class privileged teenagers, she was in no way attempting to undermine or minimize the efforts that have gone into helping impoverished teenagers. she was pretty clear about the fact that affluent teens are
Aug 03, 2009 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Not one to readily dive into parenting, self-help or other social psychology reads, this one definitley was my exception. Offhandedly mentioned by my own children's pediatrician, I decided to give it a read because of the culture of affluence that my own kids are exposed to and raised in.

And let me interject: the concept of affluence doesn't have to mean the big house behind the statueque gates with the glittering pool--it can mean infinite clubs, sports, classes, etc. that kids--and more import
Feb 23, 2010 Julie rated it really liked it
Shelves: parenting
Living in an affluent area, this book gave me some insight into what might be happening in the homes of my childrens' friends. I was also able to see some of the things we inadvertantly do in our home in an effort to help our kids which are actually harming their development. It makes one wonder if the parents that need to read this book ever would and if they would recognize themselves in the pages. My suspicious is not. It did reinforce the idea that you need to raise your children with strong ...more
Dec 04, 2013 Susan rated it it was ok
I first heard of this book because the author went to my high school, and it was in the library so I checked it out. A lot of the concepts seemed pretty logical, not anything surprising. It was interesting enough to finish, but not necessarily recommend, unless the topic grabs you. While reading I thought of my childhood, psychology courses I've taken, friends I know, my students, and how I want to raise my children. In the end, it made me ask myself what I value and how will I use those values ...more
Dec 18, 2015 Nika rated it it was amazing
I read this book three years ago when I was fifteen years old, and it truly impacted my understanding of the world around me. The claim that Levine's message is hackneyed or 'old news' is an unwarranted criticism—so long as these problems persist, this book will remain valuable. Even if the essential thesis may seem obvious to some, the affluent communities Levine addresses are largely unaware of the negative consequences of a suburban climate.

One resonating theme throughout the book was the cr
I picked up the book after realizing that many people at my suburban high school were extremely unhappy; despite financial security, many were stressed, drank too much coffee, didn't get enough sleep, and didn't seem to enjoy their lives. I'm not the only one who realized this; written on one of the walls of my school is Escape Suburbia, and some consider it to me a motif of their high school experiences.

When I took this book out from the library, I was looking for answers, and fortunately this
Miriam  Kohler-Pogash
Jul 26, 2008 Miriam Kohler-Pogash rated it really liked it
This is a must read for anyone who teaches or raises children today. Not only did it help me to better understand my own sons, but it also gives me improved insight into my students and their parents. Actually, the book makes me grateful for having come of age in the late 1960s and '70s when the choices were much clearer and our parents were not our friends.
Jul 22, 2014 Janine rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Blah, blah, blah--"these kids aren't spoiled, they're troubled." Sorry, Levine, but I'm not buying what you're selling, Though she does make a few good points, and the chapter on the different stages of development was interesting, there weren't any real revelatory moments in this expose. Levine's basic premise is that this generation of children who grow up in affluent families are more likely to suffer from depression, alcoholism, drug addition, and ultimately won't ever develop a true sense o ...more
Jan 28, 2016 Jill rated it liked it
I had a hard time with this book. It was so very sad to me, and simultaneously terrifying. I can see how easily families can fall into the trap of having kids who have everything yet are nothing--have no identity, no purpose, no meaning or desire. They are lost.

I feel the tension between wanting to give them everything they need, but realize that by giving them everything, I'm depriving them of the chance to learn, grown and develop as a human.

My conclusion from reading this book is that sever
Jun 11, 2012 Jennifer rated it it was ok
Levine begins by describing a mental health "epidemic" among affluent teens, arguing that mental health disorders in these children of privilege and power - the future powerful of our society - has an impact on society at large, and should be addressed as a public health issue. Then she writes a parenting book. Her parenting advise is mostly sound (with a few notable exceptions - I don't agree that drug usage should be considered a normal, healthy part of development), but it is just a parenting ...more
JoAnn   W.
Mar 09, 2013 JoAnn W. rated it it was amazing
Here's a book for parents. Written by a trained PhD psychotheraist with years of experience in private practice, she doesn't use the word "spoiled" kids but basically means just that. She says that upper middle-class families in recent years have given their kids too much material stuff. They have unintentionally created narcissists who have a sense of entitlement and little or no appreciation or gratitude for their privileged lives.

One of her statements has stood by me as a keeper. She says tha
Aug 22, 2010 Lindsay rated it it was amazing
Fascinating view into the world of affluent families and the epidemic proportions of disaffected, psychologically damaged youth being turned out from such a lifestyle. This book sheds some light on why many of the most recent generations in the U.S. are so maladjusted in social interaction, interpersonal relationships, and the adversities of life in general. That so many have no "substance" and no altruism is probably the most disturbing. What will become of them when - in the coming years of in ...more
Dec 04, 2013 Brendan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Child Pych/Development
I enjoyed and appreciated this book on several levels.
It's a thoughtful explanation on what adolescents are going through in modern times, and in particular when raised with wealth at their side.
Madeline Levine, Ph.D., cites her own professional opinion and research from other Psychologists the problems particular to the affluent household and lines them up against the needs of a developing adolescent. She shares her experiences as a psychologist and as an affluent mother of three, to illustra
Linda Oleszczuk
Nov 13, 2015 Linda Oleszczuk rated it really liked it
I read this in pieces, and admit I skipped parts that were not relevant. However, all my mom-friends struggling with teens, especially us in North Fulton, this book is a must read. I assure you, you WILL find yourself identifying with at least one example, and it is always reassuring (to me at any rate) to know that I am not the only mom out there screwing things up! Seriously though, find a copy and ease your mind. You'll be glad you did!
May 13, 2012 Shawna rated it really liked it
I read this book as a means of developing a deeper understanding of those around me. We live in a very "privileged" society. I wanted to understand the issues that my children's "friends" would be facings. Ha, ha.

This book did increased my understanding and compassion for those around me. I have already applied many of the things that I learned from its pages. And will be working and praying extra hard that my own family does not see the depression, anxiety, suicide, self mutilating behaviors, e
Apr 22, 2009 Lisa rated it liked it
I think that the author lets readers off the hook too easily by over-emphasizing that her book applies to the "affluent". I think a lot of the issues she addresses that come from having wealth are just as relevant to the middle-class who often strive to be just like the "affluent". Be careful what you wish for! Granted some of the extremes in her book made me wonder if Paris Hilton's parents shouldn't sit down and read it cover to cover, but most of the same pitfalls occur within the middle clas ...more
Heidi Thorsen
Aug 02, 2011 Heidi Thorsen rated it really liked it
This is a quick read, and illuminating. The book explains which parental behaviors inhibit their children's emotional growth. Some things are common sense, but others are counter-intuitive. I thought the chapter called "How We Connect Makes All the Difference" was useful since it detailed the difference between "good warmth" and "bad warmth", and how to correct children without criticizing them. There are also warnings that certain types of praise can foster a desire in kids to be motivated by e ...more
Jun 18, 2013 Erin rated it really liked it
Another great book that was referenced in How Children Succeed. While I am not as affluent as most the families she talks about I think we share many of the same problems anyway. There were tons of great points that really hit home with me right now with my tween, pre-teen, and young teen. I felt that it was worth reading for many reasons but the best reason was to be reminded of this: "True warmth and acceptance have nothing to do with what your child does and everything to do with who your chi ...more
Carolyn Browne
Jan 23, 2016 Carolyn Browne rated it liked it
"Madeline Levine has been a practicing psychologist for twenty-five years, but it was only recently that she began to observe a new breed of unhappy teenager. When a bright, personable fifteen-year-old girl, from a loving and financially comfortable family, came into her office with the word empty carved into her left forearm, Levine was startled. This girl and her message seemed to embody a disturbing pattern Levine had been observing. Her teenage patients were bright, socially skilled, and lov ...more
Mar 05, 2009 Laura rated it it was amazing
Written by a clinical phychologist who practices in an affluent area on very privileged children, this author identifies how materialism, prefectionism and disconnection are leading to depression, high rates of substance abuse and anxiety disorders among children from high earning families. Tearing down one child-rearing myth after another, she provides thought provoking solutions that will help parents raise children of have authentic senses of self and who are not made by the things they buy.
Oct 26, 2015 Lisabeth rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kid-freak-out
I found this book so compelling that I took fifteen pages of notes and forced my husband and 13 year old son to go through them with me over the course of two weekends, wanting to get feedback from our son.

Though at times the glimpses she gives of her clients feels like rubbernecking, there is plenty of real discussion here about children from upper-middle-class and upper-class families who are as "at risk" for dangerous behaviors as their economically disadvantaged counterparts. While much of D
Kristina Smith
Oct 04, 2015 Kristina Smith rated it liked it
The book is somewhere between a three and four depending if your actually living in an upper-middle class suburban neighbourhood in the USA or any big city in the world. Then the author's tone was just really hard to get used to. Many of the problems in this book are really all about the Consumer Culture in America - having lived quite cozily, and quite sane, abroad for so long I found it hard to relate to the parental issues in the book. Then again, my child is not a teenager yet! Just the whol ...more
Jun 03, 2008 Amy rated it liked it
I think this woman is dead-on with her assessment of kids that have no purpose and why we are seeing some of the behavior we read about in the paper. It was interesting to hear the stories behind her cases, especially since I taught in that area and know the community to a certain degree! It also made me think about my parenting, and if I'm truly serving my kids by giving them a life of privilege.
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“Our children cannot be assumed to follow in our footsteps, assuage our losses, or compensate for our inadequacies.” 4 likes
“We need to always deal with the child in front of us, not the child of our fantasies.” 3 likes
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