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

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In recent years, numerous studies have shown that bright, charming, seemingly confident and socially skilled teenagers from affluent, loving families are experiencing epidemic rates of depression, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders¡ªrates higher than in any other socioeconomic group of American adolescents. Materialism, pressure to achieve, perfectionism, and disconnection are combining to create a perfect storm that is devastating children of privilege and their parents alike.

In this eye-opening, provocative, and essential book, clinical psychologist Madeline Levine explodes one child-rearing myth after another. With empathy and candor, she identifies toxic cultural influences and well-intentioned, but misguided, parenting practices that are detrimental to a child's healthy self-development. Her thoughtful, practical advice provides solutions that will enable parents to help their emotionally troubled "star" child cultivate an authentic sense of self.

Customer Reviews:

  • A Parenting Book for EVERY Parent (not just the rich ones)
    Don't judge this book by its title. Parents at every income level will find it helpful. Although the book focuses somewhat on the emotional problems of priveleged youth, The Price of Privelege is a goldmine of valuable information and advice on parenting that we ALL could use. As a child psychologist, I have worked with children and families from all walks for life for the last 12 years. I have seen parents at all income levels make the same mis-steps that Levine talks about. Levine lays out, very clearly, why so much of what parents currently believe to be "good" parenting is at best unhelpful, and at worst destructive (news flash: controlling your child's behavior will help him/her be a happier person and do better in college; praise undermines confidence and effort; self-esteem is not as important as you think it is; chores are good for children).

    Dr. Levine wants all children to grow up to be happy, self-actualized, creative, independent people, having satisfying relationships and doing creative work that they love. She lays out very cogently why parenting that is warm and loving, but not controlling, leeds to poor outcomes for children; why allowing children to make mistakes and suffer the consequences is good for their self-confidence; and why "encouraging" children can leed them to feel turned off, burnt out, and empty.

    This may be the only parenting book you wil need....more info
  • great guide
    my wife just loves to read books and mainly books about being a better parent she loved this book...more info
  • Very Important Book
    I gave this to one of my sisters last spring when her teenage son was going thru some difficulties. She subsequently gave it to her husband, and then to the school headmaster who made it mandatory reading for the school's counseling dept. If they believe so strongly in this book, parents can, too. ...more info
  • good premise, but redundant material
    I am neither an educator nor in the mental health field, I'm simply a parent who tries to read widely. I think the premise of this book is quite interesting, it's certainly an easy read, and the book does articulate a set of problems that privileged kids are faced with. But as is typical with social psychology books, it's overburdened by too many anecdotal stories that describe similar problems without explaining the underlying issues. The parents are universally painted as self-centered and too busy yet expecting the best for and of their progeny; is this really the cause, or are there other downsides of privilege tied to larger social phenomena?

    This should have stayed a magazine-length article but has been padded to be book-length, with the price tag adjusted accordingly. Borrow it from a friend. ...more info
  • A long book, but has some good info.
    The book is worthwhile and has some excellent concepts in it. My only complaint is that most of the important concepts could be explained in a fraction of the pages used, and the book gets long. I'm glad I read it and I learned some things that will help in parenting, but it felt like work to finish the book....more info
  • The Price of Privilege
    Great book. Easy to read. An important book to reflect on what's really important in raising healthy, successful, happy, and productive children.
    Recommended reading for any parent who has a teenager....more info
  • Reinforcing the basics
    A family does not have to be "affluent" in the dollar amounts Dr. Levine describes, to have very similar issues. Middle class kids have "stuff", are envious of the designer "stuff" and haven't a sense of purpose of themselves. The truth is that many of the parents don't seem to either because they are caught up with evrything else except their kids. Kids from lower class to upper class all seem to have phones, Ipods, etc. While reading this book, I spoke with my 14-year old daughter who agreed with much of what the kids felt in the book and realized quite to her surprise that things aren't appreciated as well when not earned. Many of the cases are sad and the acting out for attention in extreme ways seems to happen more frequently. Cutting, getting high, lying, and failing school on purpose are done without seeing future consequences. I think therapy can work for all those frustrated parents and their kids. This is an informative book and what I took from it is: be a parent not a friend, establish rules and stick to them, help kids when warranted and don't let things go too far before doing something. ...more info
  • A great gift for ANYONE with kids!

    As soon as I finshed it I sent it my own mother and think that I have to give copies of the book anyone that I know with kids or thinking of having kids. Fantastic not only for the "affluent" but for all to read and learn about the children that will be running to world in years to come....more info
  • The Price is psychologically devastatingly high. Read the book to protect your family from psychological dysfunction
    This is an excellent book about how the affluent have adopted undermining values (perfectionism, materialism) and how it negatively affects parenting style and causes psychological neurosis among teens. I am the parent of a teenage daughter who goes to a public high school in Marin County. Thus, we live in the social milieu described by Dr. Levine. The book content was both shocking and revealing to me. When I shared some of Dr. Levine's findings that I could not believe I would ask my daughter about them. Invariably, she confirmed that Dr. Levine was correct. That's how I found out that one of my daughter's acquaintances did cut herself frequently. That's also when I knew that Dr. Levine was onto something and not just sensationalizing another marketable myth about Marin County. Also, this book really is not about Marin County as it depicts a nationwide prevalent phenomenon of teenage psychological dysfunction among the affluent.

    The book's main thesis is that teenagers from affluent families suffer more intense psychological problems than anyone thought. Her findings reflects her 25 years of experience as a psychologist working with children in Marin County and her reviewing related clinical studies on the subject. Dr. Levine has extensively referenced the material of the book. Thus, her thesis and arguments are well supported by contemporary psychological research.

    The book includes four parts. The first part diagnoses the psychological problems affecting teenagers from affluent families. The second part reviews how our material culture contributes to undermining the development of the inner self. The third part provides recommendation on how to parent to overcome cultural hurdles and develop healthy children. The fourth part reflects on how you have to develop your own strength and independence before you can impart those qualities to your kids. The first three sections overlap a lot as diagnostics of affluent teenagers problems, criticism of our materialistic society, and advice on parenting are peppered throughout the book regardless of the section. Somehow, the liquidity in categorization of the topic does not detract in the book's readability.

    Dr. Levine mentions two key factors leading to dysfunctional teen among the affluent: The first is achievement pressure. The second is emotional isolation from parents. She observed that parents are over involved as far as grades and performance are involved but they are often too busy for down to earth conversation with their teens that would help their inner self growth.

    The parents' focus on performance leads to the kids' perfectionism that leads to serious problems. Dr. Levine observed that studies uncovered a strong relationship between perfectionism and suicide among teens that are gifted. It is not the parents' high expectations that are the culprit, but when parental love becomes conditional to the child's achievement.

    Within the third chapter of this section, Dr. Levine studies the counterintuitive disconnect between money and happiness. Once basic needs are met, apparently surplus money does not make people happier. Dr. Levine has reviewed cross lateral and longitudinal scientific studies that confirm that. For example, the Irish apparently are happier than the Germans and the Japanese. Yet, the Irish GDP per capita is about less than half the Germans or Japanese. Americans are not happier today than they were a generation ago even though their GDP per capita (adjusted for inflation) has nearly doubled.

    In the third part of the book, Dr. Levine analyzes parenting by referring to the seminal research of Dr. Baumrind who established the foundation of psychological studies on parenting. Dr. Baumrind differentiates between three parenting style: 1) authoritarian, 2) permissive, and 3) authoritative.

    The Authoritarian parent adopts a military style. They think of the child strictly as a subordinate. The parents order, the child obeys. And, that's it. This typically leads to terrible problems during the teen years. Either the teen violently explode out of rebellion or he breaks down. Such teens have often low self esteem, poor social skills, and a high rate of depression. Such child often lacks curiosity and creativity and is unable to explore and develop his inner self.

    The Permissive parent is very loving and caring but short on discipline. They think of the child as a friend. The resulting teen is often likable and has high self-esteem. But, they tend to be impulsive, immature, and lack awareness of the responsibility of their own action. They also have lower rates of academic achievement and higher rates of substance abuse.

    The Authoritative parent is warm and accepting, but they set clear expectations and limits. They place a high value on cooperation, responsibility, and self-regulation. They value achievement and self-motivation but do not emphasize competition. Authoritative parents promote autonomy by encouraging children to figure it out on their own whenever they can. Such parents support the child's growing autonomy by focusing both on independence and connection. As expected, such household foster better overall child development with lower rate of depression and substance abuse than either of the other two parenting styles. Autonomy, not dependency, is always the goal of such parenting style.

    If you have a daughter, I also strongly recommend Louann Brizendine "The Female Brain." She dedicates an excellent chapter to the "Teen Brain." This book informs that female teen behaviors are not only a function of the social milieu but are strongly influenced by an abrupt change in hormonal levels. We all know that. But, Brizendine really educates one in detail about the process and how to deal with it. Some of us need all the help we can get, right!?
    ...more info
  • Learned About Myself Too
    I bought this book after seeing it cited in a newspaper article about how parents these days are pushing their kids, even kindergarteners, too hard. I was intrigued by the title and the book did not disappoint! I bought it thinking it would help me be a better mom to my son as he grows up (he is only 1 year old right now), but in the process I learned a ton about myself and how important it is for the emotional well-being of my children that I am emotionally healthy myself. I underlined numerous things throughout the book and plan to refer back to it often over the years to come. There is a great section on the different ages and stages that kids go through and how to parent effectively during each of them. That was so interesting to me.

    The very last section of the book was about the working moms debate and the author does a superb job of presenting a balanced view. I did not feel bad after reading the book; in fact, I felt understood and encouraged.

    I will definitely re-read this book and recommend it to others....more info
  • Clearly I'm in the minority here..
    This is a very good book with many valuable insights and clinical observations. The problem I have with this book is the same problem I have with the psychological and psychiatric communities in general. Psychotherapists like Dr. Levine have effectively removed religion from their professional discourse and thus their diagnoses, both personal and scoial, are inevitably incomplete. In my opinion, there is a clear link between affluence and secularism/atheism and between secularism/atheism and depression. Statistically, impoverished, less affluent peoples are far more likely to attend religious services on a weekly basis and to hold the religious life in higher esteem. Perhaps it is this lack of a religious orientation that causes or helps to cause those issues which Dr. Levine does consider at length; depression, materialism, perfectionism, stress etc. Unfortuantely, in today's psychiatric climate the question of religion is off the table. ...more info
  • afflictions of affluence
    Madeline Levine knows the afflictions of affluence. Although she was raised in a blue collar setting and her family even lived on state assistance for a while, for thirty years she's lived in Marin County, California, just across the Golden Gate Bridge, where she's raised a family of five and practiced as a clinical psychologist. In addition to her personal experiences as a mother and a clinician, her book includes the findings of social-scientific studies, cultural analyses, and the insights of her colleagues to explore the "paradox of privilege." Why are there so many kids "whose problems seem out of proportion to their life circumstances?" Why do her adolescent patients have some of the highest rates of dysfunctional behaviors, including addictions, eating disorders, cutting, burning, depression, insomnia, boredom and anxiety? Why have adolescent suicides quadrupled since 1950?

    Levine encourages us to take an "unflinching look at our parenting skills." There she finds two contributing factors: achievement pressure and maladaptive perfectionism that make kids feel like parental love depends upon performance. Kids also feel isolated from their parents, even those overweening parents who, out of their own neediness, are not simply involved in the lives of their kids but downright intrusive. Levine teases out the distinctions between support and micro-management, wholesome encouragement and overbearing pressure. She also spends considerable time deconstructing the more toxic elements of affluent cultures, encouraging parents to resist the status quo of overwrought competition, perfectionism, and materialism.

    All parents have limited abilities, skills, and opportunities, not to mention their own family of origin baggage. Children are all different and unpredictable, so there is no one-size-fits-all set of techniques that guarantees success. Levine is empathetic and realistic; she never makes you feel like parenting requires sainthood. I especially appreciated the several times she shared her own family failures and successes. She repeatedly returns to the special influence of mothers on their children, along with the their unique challenges (including her entire last chapter). I'm sure that many of the problems she describes exist not merely in affluent communities but most everywhere. The wisdom she offers in this book will help any parent, no matter where they live....more info
  • Not just for rich kids
    Am writing this review for my wife who won't take the time to put this book down since picking it up yesterday. She's shown me enough bits and pieces that I'll do the writing.
    When I first saw the title, I sighed. Another book on poor, spoiled rich kids.
    We don't think of ourselves as "affluent" but our children certainly are privileged and Dr. Levine gets right to the point. The issue isn't money, but what we do and what we neglect to do for our kids. More time, the wonderful phrase "inviting, listening presence" and less time sticking our noses into every bit of our kids lives. I particualry liked the clear suggestions about how to handle the inevitable problems of adolesence and the difficulties of being parent whether one has a few extra bucks or is just making ends meet.

    A good book not only for the "affluent" but for anyone who has paid enough attention to know that all is not right with our culture, values and parenting skills.
    Highly recommended....more info
  • As a therapist, I found this book informative and easy to read
    In a nutshell, this is a great book. Informative, insightful for parents, teens and even just the public at large. It helps to understand the "ME ME" generation going on right now. I recoomended it to all of my clients....more info
  • Finally, a psychologist who lives in the real world
    I was fortunate enough to be given an advance copy of Madeline Levine's new book, The Price of Privilege. While her careful research certainly gave this book more credibility than similar books which are more about a single author's perspective, it is her practical advice that I found most helpful. Does a sixteen year old still need a curfew, do you have to confront your kid when you find a bottle of vodka or a joint in her room? Her ability to answer questions like these and to present a framework for answering the hundreds of other questions that come up when you're trying to parent a sometimes rebellious teen were invaluable. All this in a readable, empathic tone that makes you feel like she live next door.
    As for the "culture of affluence," my husband and I decided quite a while ago that we did not want our kids immersed in materialism at the expense of family and community involvment. Dr. Levine has made it even clearer why kids need love, limits and involvement, not indulgence and pressure....more info
  • Great Read!
    This is a great mix of practical advice and myth-busting about what it means to raise "successful" children. I found the sections on "intrusive" parenting especially on the mark, as I see so many parents micro-managing their kids and rescuing them at every misstep along the way. And the book gives parents permission--and in fact encourages them--to buck the tide of "more" for their kids and recognize that less is, in fact, more....more info
  • Repetitive and not very "meaty"
    The author of this book spends a great deal of time repeating herself. The result is that you start getting bored and going "yeah, yeah, yeah, you said that," as you're reading. Also, it would have been nice if she'd have given some more concrete examples on how not to end up with kids that aren't "empty." For example, she said parents should not be "overinvolved"--so what specifically does overinvolved with a toddler look like? Or what does it look like with a seven-year-old? She gives a few short examples but they are just kind of brushed over. There are other, better books out there that provide self-assessments that are definitely much more helpful for a parent than this one. She spends much more time talking about the problem than solutions....more info
  • From a grateful mom
    While most of the reviews have focused on Dr. Levine's acumen in dealing with teens, I have to say that this book was most helpful to me because of the way it deals with the problems of moms. I have two daughters, one troubled, one not. I've always been made to feel that my troubled daughter is somehow the result of awful parenting decisions I've made. Dr. Levine has helped me sort out the mistakes I've made, both with my daughter and myself, while maintaing perspective about the fact that not all things are in my control. Her warmth comes through on every page (not incidentally, she considers warmth "the silver bullet" of healthy relationships). But also her ability to stand in the shoes of often beleagured moms, without being critical or condescending, makes it easy to take her advice.
    Makes me wish she wish she lived down the street. Great and useful and ultimately optimistic book....more info
  • Targeted for mothers, useful for fathers too
    This is one of the the few parenting books I've actually read cover to cover. As the father of three young children, I find that most authors are in love with their words and give too many examples, when I have too little time to read. Dr. Levine's slim volume doesn't skimp on the facts or on the suggestions, but never dallies. Certainly, she knows, that for the most part, her audience is busy and often overwhelmed.
    I found this book useful for two reasons in particular. First, Dr. Levine does an outstanding job of presenting the facts. While everyone seems to have an opinion about what's wrong with the current generation _- too spoiled, too lazy, too indulged- Dr. Levine sticks to what we actually do know about the adjustment of affluent kids, and that is that they are often unhappy. And that their unhappiness stems from having too much of the wrong things (pressure and material goods) and too little of the things that kids really need (acceptance, limits, challenge). I suspect that to many of us this is not entirely a surprise
    Which brings me to the second thing I really liked about this book. In spite of bringing foward a host of rather disturbing realities, The Price of Privilege never feels depressing or makes you feel like you really screwed up. On the contrary, Dr. Levine's generous sharing of family incidents, as well as her empathy and humor, keep us feeling that with just a few adjustments we can do a much better job.
    Truthfully, I believe her....more info
  • a practical and insightful book
    One reason I was pleased with this book is that the author, psychologist Madeline Levine, doesn't blame money itself for the rising problems among privileged teens. She mentions wealthy families where the kids are raised to be decent, hard-working, responsible and mature. Rather than rail against the evil of money (which would've been annoyingly hypocritical, given that she, her husband and sons live in an affluent community), Dr. Levine makes an important distinction between money and the values that often go hand-in-hand with money (but don't have to).

    One example is the attitude of materialism one sees in many privileged communities. Materialism isn't constrained to any one socioeconomic class; a person from a poor or middle class home may also value his possessions excessively, and place more importance on acquiring more "stuff" at the expense of spending quality time with family, forming friendships, and cultivating meaningful interests and positive character traits. The reason why materialism is often associated only with wealth, is that wealthy people have the means to indulge it more often and in more conspicuous ways. The point is, it's this mindset that Levine criticizes, not money per se. She knows wealthy kids who are well-adjusted, in part because their parents had them do chores around the house, encouraged them to volunteer and engage in community activities, did not cave in and buy them everything they wanted, and basically set firm boundaries and placed emphasis on the important values in life. In less healthy families, material goods are sadly seen as fulfilling all needs and solving all problems.

    It's painful to read about parents who hold out bribes of expensive cars and clothes in the hopes that their kids will get the best grades, make the best sports teams, and get into the best colleges. As Levine points out, it's not only materialism that hurts these kids. It's also the intense pressure to be the best at everything and pull it off without any apparent effort. The emphasis on outward appearance, on superficial measures of success stifles many of the kids in these communities.

    One example she gives is a boy who's unremarkable academically but very gifted at car repair and mechanics. For his parents it's a nightmare; they're ambitious, college-educated professionals and can't accept their son's enthusiasm and preference for what they see as lower class work. They criticize him relentlessly, and as one coping mechanism for feeling so under-valued and out of place in his family and community, he turns to drugs and starts acting out. Levine doesn't excuse the boy's behavior, but she can understand it; in addition to drug abuse treatment, part of her therapy involves the parents and getting them to see that their son is his own person and shouldn't be forced into the prototypical mold for a "successful" child.

    Which brings me to another good point about the book. Levine really encourages parents to rethink their parenting styles and review their values and motives. For example, after reading this book a father might wonder why he's pushing his son so hard to play a sport - is it because he wants the boy to learn something and grow as a person? Or is it because he wants to live vicariously through his son and be the envy of the other competitive fathers in the community?

    Levine is sympathetic to parents. She acknowledges that most parents want the best for their kids. She has particular compassion for the mothers in these affluent communities, who often lead lonely lives and, because of the need to appear perfectly happy and perfectly together, often don't have a close friend to confide in (in fact, one of the pitfalls is a socially isolated mother turning to her kids for the kind of emotional intimacy she isn't getting from her spouse and friends). She urges parents, particularly mothers, to address the troubled and painful issues in their own lives; essentially, a content and well-adjusted parent makes for a much better influence on a kid than one who is cold and remote, or clingy and needy, or just downright depressed.

    Dr. Levine's book is thoughtful, straightforward and worth reading. Though all parents can benefit from her advice, the book is especially important for affluent parents who inspite of their good intentions might readily adopt the dominant values of their communities - the materialism, the pressure to look good and (at least outwardly) succeed, the emotional isolation, and the conformity to a certain kind of lifestyle. As Levine demonstrates again and again in her book, these values stunt and skew development....more info
  • The Price of Privilege
    This book enlightens parents to the consequences of pampering their chidren monetarily and with lack of discipline. The topic crosses the affluence boundary and affects all families in this day and age, to some extent. Chidlren are growing up with less of a spiritual core which parents fill with 'stuff', playing into the consumer culture of today. It's not only a great parenting book, but an excellent profile of our need to succeed in order to feel worthy. She is a great writer and I highly recommend this book....more info
  • Great insights for parents living in competitive communities
    I bought this book after hearing about it on the Diane Rehm show on NPR. The book is a mix of research summaries, case studies, and the author's insights.

    As a parent who hates to discipline, the book was a good reminder of why discipline is necessary and also why it is so difficult. The book made me reflect on many other issues - including the difference between spending time with my kids and connecting with them. The book also did a great job in describing why providing an environment where a child can work on his/her inner self is very important, and that pressuring a child to excel in various areas may be counterproductive.

    As mentioned in other reviews, this book is written with compassion rather than criticism for parents, particularly with sensitivity to issues of mothers in today's world....more info
  • Excellent Book For All Parents
    We are not rich, but I am concerned about my kids being spoiled. I want them to have balanced lives and grow up to be happy adults. This book pointed out several things I was doing wrong and it helped steer me in the right direction regarding what to look for and how to be a better parent. I have read tons of parenting books and this one by far is one of the best....more info
  • Great read!
    I found this book both terrifying and hopeful all in one. I have already bought this as a gift for a friend as well as had another friend buy it. I'm now passing my copy on to other friends. Dr. Levine put it beautifully when she speaks of how parenting has become more of a business proposition. What happened to enjoying the journey with our kids instead of focusing on the outcome? I continue to quote this book daily and think it's a great lesson for all....more info
  • read overachievers instead
    This woman is really annoying and self-satisfied and you almost have more symphathy with the cell-phone toting materialistic teenagers she is trying to "guide". For a more insightful look at modern teenage life among the privileged, read the Overachievers ...more info


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