The Price of Privilege
I just picked up a copy of a local newspaper and was drawn to the front page titled The Price of Privilege and the Poverty of the Soul. The new book The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids, alerts us that the more privileged a child's life is, the more likely they will be unhappy.
The author, Marin Psychologist-Madeline Levine, would know, she lives in one of the most affluent communities in the world, where the cost of a 2,000 square foot starter home is $1,500,000. She paired up with Columbia University researcher, Dr. Suniya Luther who studied the differences in socioeconomic classes. She thought that those with less financial means would be more troubled than those with more money. This just wasn't the case. It turns out that money can't buy you happiness after all.
I remember reading somewhere that a psychologist said she would rather treat clients with more personal wealth because she said at least they understood that money was not the cause of all their problems.
The article says that 22% of girls in affluent communities are clinically depressed. What is happening to our youth? Dr. Luther thinks that she would find that same incidence of depression with these girl's mothers too. Something about the affluent looking good on the surface with all the trappings of wealth, but having shallow personal growth underneath.
I feel that a lot of this disconnection comes from an addiction to stuff; wearing the latest fashion, driving the coolest car, vacationing in the best locations. When your life revolves around things and looking good, it is harder to be connected to the more important things in life such as building bonded family and friend relationships that are based on love, trust and respect. If you have a solid support system that loves you no matter what you look like, wear, drive, say, etc., then it is much easier to feel good about yourself and it less likely you will be depressed.
I met a young woman in her early twenties last month who told me she went to Berkeley (one of the top Public Colleges in the country) and now she is a software engineer for a startup company. I asked her how she slept. She said great now that the pressures of college were over and she was corporate. Which made me think a lot of the reason children are so disconnected and morose is because of the extreme pressure that wealthy parents put on their children to succeed, especially at school.
And for what? You might get a few accolades for saying that you went to Princeton, recently rated the #1 school in the country, but that won't translate much into a larger check at the end of the week.
I have a 4 year old boy and want to make sure that he grows up well rounded - not angry, depressed and skirting over the psychological edge. Someday it would be great to have a little girl too. I know I will have my challenges cut out for me. Articles like this provide me the education to make better parenting decisions. Though I know I am not perfect, I realize that some choices are better than others.
A few years ago a friend asked me if I would encourage Max to seek a certain profession. I said, yes - business. At that time I felt if he acquired business skills that it would translate into any profession he sought and that he would be financially secure. Now, I am not so sure about that answer.
Now, I am trying to step back from that view and remove some of the pressure for my child to be the best at everything. Instead I will look for ways to help cultivate his own interests (not mine) so that he follows his heart and passions and does things that truly bring him joy. If that were the case for me, I wouldn't have majored in MIS and Marketing in college, I would have majored in Dance and Humanities. I wonder what path that would have taken me on ...
For tips on how to provide your kids with money skills, take the Ms.Money online seminar 6 Steps to Raise Financially Responsible Children.