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The Price of Privilege [Kindle Edition]

Madeline Levine PhD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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 seemed to embody a disturbing pattern Levine had been observing. Her teenage patients were bright, socially skilled, and loved by their affluent parents. But behind a veneer of achievement and charm, many of these teens suffered severe emotional problems. What was going on?

Conversations with educators and clinicians across the country as well as meticulous research confirmed Levine's suspicions that something was terribly amiss. Numerous studies show that privileged adolescents are experiencing epidemic rates of depression, anxietydisorders, and substance abuse—rates that are higherthan those of any other socioeconomic group ofyoung people in this country. The various elements of a perfect storm—materialism, pressure to achieve, perfectionism, disconnection—are combining to create a crisis in America's culture of affluence. This culture is as unmanageable for parents—mothers in particular—as it is for their children. While many privileged kids project confidence and know how to make a goodimpression, alarming numbers lack the basic foundation of psychological development: an authentic sense of self. Even parents often miss the signs of significant emotional problems in their "star" children.

In this controversial look at privileged families, Levine offers thoughtful, practical advice as she explodes one child-rearing myth after another. With empathy and candor, she identifies parenting practices that are toxic to healthy self-development and that have contributed to epidemic levels of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse in the most unlikely place—the affluent family.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A practicing psychologist in Marin County, Calif., Levine counsels troubled teens from affluent families, and finds it paradoxical that wealth—which can open the door to travel and other enriching opportunities—can produce such depressed, anxious, angry and bored teenagers. After comparing notes with colleagues, she concluded that consumerism too often substitutes for the sorts of struggles that produce thoughtful, happy people. If objects satisfy people, then they never get around to working on deeper issues. The teen years are supposed to be a time for character building. Avoiding this hard work with the distraction of consumer toys can produce "vacant," "evacuated" or "disconnected" teens, Levine believes. She is particularly useful when explaining common parenting dilemmas, like the difference between being intrusive and being involved, between laying down rules and encouraging autonomy. Alas, while Levine pitches to the educated moms, since they do much of the actual child-rearing, she may be preaching to the choir. Those who need her most may be too busy shopping to pick up such a dire-looking volume. Still, school guidance counselors should be happy to have this clear, sensitive volume on their bookshelves. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Scientific American

Wandering among suburban estates, sports clubs and prep schools are overlooked children of a perplexed generation. Their lives overflow with abundance and praise, yet ironically, the mask of apparent health and success may hide a gloomy world of emptiness, anxiety and anger. Strangely, argues Madeline Levine, a clinical psychologist practicing in Marin County, California, the nation’s latest group of at-risk kids comes from affluent, well-educated families. Despite advantages, these children experience disproportionately high rates of clinical depression, substance abuse, anxiety, eating disorders and self-destructive (even self-mutilating) behaviors, according to various studies. Based on criteria from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Levine says these children "are exhibiting epidemic rates of emotional problems beginning in junior high school and accelerating throughout adolescence." One may brush off these youngsters as overindulged products of wealthy, narcissistic parents. But Levine says many of these kids are really ill. They suffer from a weak sense of self, often struggling to fill inner emptiness with objects and praise. Too often they know something is wrong and grope desperately for help yet fail to escape a downward spiral. Could it be, Levine wonders, that privilege, high expectations, competitive pressure and parental overinvolvement yield toxic rather than protective effects? Levine explores such issues as social isolation, the fine line between parental underinvolvement and overindulgence, and the perverse role of money and material goods in creating false promises of fulfillment. Yearning for outward approval, adolescents are particularly vulnerable to the delusion that wealth causes happiness. In many cases, a rude awakening occurs only after many years of anxiety and depression. Levine’s writing is surprisingly reflective and interesting. A constructive therapist, she offers practical guidelines and parenting strategies for those struggling with troubled teens. The advice is useful to any parent of any income level and includes ways to foster healthy autonomy, impulse control and sense of self. Levine emphasizes the importance of discipline, monitoring and limit setting as ways to encourage kids to construct healthy "inner" homes. More important, parents must "stand on their own two feet" before expecting their children to stand on theirs—noting that many parents scold their children for social behaviors that they themselves cannot manage, such as substance abuse and lack of self-discipline or self-assertion. Parents must strive to get their own inner homes in order before they can expect kids to straighten out theirs.

Richard Lipkin

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4.4 out of 5 stars
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114 of 117 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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.
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143 of 149 people found the following review helpful
I picked this book up almost by accident. But boy, am I glad I did. In "The Price of Privilege" (246 pages), author Madeline Levine, an accomplished psychologist who excels in dealing with troubled teenagers, examines the dangers and effects of teenagers growing up in an affluent environment. ("Affluent" is defined as a household earning $120,000 and more.)

I have to say that I was blown away by the observations in this book, even if, thankfully, I certainly have not experienced the worst-case scenarios described in this book with my own kids, who are now 19 and 16. Among many other things, Levine explains how "rewarding" kids by promising material things ("if you get an "A" on your test, I will buy you X or Y") has a long-term negative effect on kids. Levine also goes into depth about internal vs. external motivation, and why praise is often "bad" warmth for kids. As to "chasing perfection", Levine observes that "the pursuit of perfection is a diversion from the messiness of real life". So true! The main proposition made by the author is that, while of course it is important that we put our kids in a position to get good grades, even more important is that we help our kids with building their inner "self", which will prepare them for the long term. Reason why overinvolvement in our kids' lives is actually counterproductive.

I cannot emphasize enough what a wonderful job Levine does in describing the dangers of putting too much pressure on our kids. Which does not mean that she endorses a "slacker" attitude either. This book is about how we can best prepare our affluent kids for the long term. And it's not like the author is making a hypothetical or theoretical or academic case, giving ample real life evidence from her own practice and from studies around the country. I certainly recognized mistakes I have made, which I now wish I could've avoided, making me wonder wishfully, where was this book when I really needed it 5 or 10 years ago...
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69 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just for rich kids July 3, 2006
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.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Targeted for mothers, useful for fathers too June 11, 2006
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.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars It is our job as parents to raise them to be people that others love...
This should be required reading for all young affluent parents. While we don't want our children to suffer deprivations, we do need to teach our children to value what they have... Read more
Published 5 days ago by Margaret A. McGregor
5.0 out of 5 stars Not everything that glitters is gold.
Teach your kids a sense of self and set your own rules. Don't let society and materialism dictate your household. A happy mom makes for a happy home.
Published 13 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars This book has become a bible for me. It ...
This book has become a bible for me. It validates that every kid is different and that we, as parents, need to honor and harness that.
Published 1 month ago by Mike
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but lacking actionable plans
Good book on dealing with your privileged kids, but it was light on action plans to implement. Maybe there is no solution but it seems to me that privilege basically delays... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Sean Christopher Thomas
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read.
Amazing read, a must for parents, my jaw dropped reading about how privileged kids are more unhappy than kids in poverty, a must read.
Published 2 months ago by Beth
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Raise kids is not an easy task. I strongly recommend this book.
Published 2 months ago by flavio
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Book in Important Subject
Well written. Makes some good points and is easy to read.
Published 3 months ago by SuzB
5.0 out of 5 stars Great resource.
Almost 10 years after it was written this remind an outstanding and relevant book on the topic of affluence and it's potentially damaging affect on our children. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Julie C. Reed
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book!
Published 4 months ago by Sherri
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
good book for people raising kids in wealthy towns
Published 5 months ago by Susan Dorothy
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More About the Author

Dr. Madeline Levine, Ph.D. is a clinician, consultant, and educator with over twenty-five years of experience.Her new book Teach Your Children Well has been hailed as "fantastic, on-point, and desperately needed" and "A modern guide for the perplexed (parent)!" It is the follow-up to her New York Times best-selling book, The Price of Privilege which explores the reasons why teenagers from affluent families are experiencing epidemic rates of emotional problems. Her two previous books, Viewing Violence and See No Evil, both received critical acclaim. Dr. Levine began her career as an elementary and junior high school teacher in the South Bronx of New York before moving to California and earning her degrees in psychology. For many years, Dr. Levine has been a consultant to various Bay Area schools, from preschool through High School. She lectures extensively to parent and school audiences at public and private schools nationwide. She has also taught Child Development classes to graduate students at the University of California Medical Center, San Francisco. She is a cofounder of Challenge Success ( a program birthed at the Stanford School of Education that addresses school reform, parent education, and student well-being. Levine has been identified as an important resource for issues associated with adolescents' development. She is one of the few talking heads featured in the documentary Race to Nowhere, and the go-to person for producers and journalists across the country who report on education and parenting. She lives outside San Francisco with her husband, and is the proud mother of three newly minted adult sons. *For more on Madeline Levine, her writing, upcoming appearances and links to past interviews, visit:

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Is it really only rich kids who are influenced by the culture of affluence?

I heard the author speak on "The Diane Rehm Show" this morning, and she explained that in her view "affluence" doesn't necessarily correlate to the wealth of a family as much as it does to parents' values. I think you are absolutely right that plenty of people who... Read More
Jul 18, 2006 by S. H. |  See all 3 posts
Why is affluence the culprit? What happens in the schools?
Sorry, but you are sadly mistaken. I'm a student at an affluent school. By no means do we get "easy tests" to get "easy grades," if anything, it's the opposite. I have yet to read the book, but I have it on reserve at the library, so I'm not quite sure what exactly the main... Read More
May 17, 2009 by A. Gift For You |  See all 2 posts
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