Book Recommendation: The Price of Privilege by Dr. Madeline Levine

Parent and teen counselor Madeline Levine examines a previously underresearched population in "The Price of Privilege": adolescents raised in affluent, two-parent communities. During her decades as a practicing psychologist, she noted a paradox. Teenagers who had the most material possessions and community resources often seemed the most empty and depressed.

Levine spares no punches in her criticism of overparenting and the pitfalls of affluence. With sections like "Why kids who have so much can feel so empty," "The toxic brew of pressure and isolation," and "How affluence can get in the way of emotional development," Levine offers food for thought about why children who appear happy on the surface may be harboring deeply problematic issues.

"In fact, many of these teens have a notable ability to put up a good front. Absent the usual list of suspects - bad divorces, substance abuse, immobilizing depression, school failure, or delinquent behavior - their parents are frequently surprised by their request to see a therapist...They complain bitterly of being too pressured, misunderstood, anxious, angry, sad, and empty."

Her audience is parents, but her message is specifically to mothers. She provides helpful parenting tips for raising children to be autonomous, confident, and responsible. She emphasizes the mutual accountability between parents and their children and warns against tendencies to shelter children from failure or harm. 

"The suffering felt by parents and children alike is genuine, not trivial. The kids I see have been given all kinds of material advantages, yet they feel that they have nothing genuine to anchor their lives to. They lack spontaneity, creativity, enthusiasm, and, most disturbingly, the capacity for pleasure. As their problems become more evident, their parents become confused and worried sick."

The Price of Privilege is relevant to college admissions because growing up in overly competitive environments with high expectations can have a detrimental effect on developing a sense of identity and self worth. Like Kirn's experiences at Princeton in Lost in the Meritocracy and Deresiewicz students at Yale, Levine notes that many teenagers are not prepared with the soft skills required for success in college and in life.

Levine's work forces readers to introspect about how their parents raised them and what habits and behaviors can inhibit living a meaningful life.