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Affluence and mental illness

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One of the things that I found out when I wrote the book "The Price of Privilege" was that kids from affluent families had particularly high rates of anxiety disorders, depression, psychosomatic disorders, and substance abuse. As a matter of fact, they had the highest rates of any socioeconomic group, which was shocking. The assumption has always been that kids with educated, wealthier parents would do better, not worse. And we had research which now has been replicated all over the country saying they're actually doing worse. And the reasons why the rates are so high are twofold. One, there is tremendous academic pressure on these kids; pressure not to just be good students at something, but to be good students at everything. And actually not just good, to be great. And most of us know that we're good at something, we're not good at everything. And yet these kids feel they have to be great at everything, leads to perfectionism, perfectionism leads to depression often. So that's the first reason. The second reason is that they report very high levels of disconnection with their parents. Which comes as a shock to parents because parents are saying, "But I'm driving you to soccer and to lacrosse and then to your coach and then to your tutor. How can you feel disconnected?" But running around like a chicken with your head cut off is really not the same as being connected to your children. And those two reasons account for this high rate of this mental illness that we're seeing in affluent children.

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Madeline Levine, PhD

Psychologist & Author

Madeline Levine, PhD, is a psychologist with close to 30 years of experience as a clinician, consultant and educator. Her New York Times bestseller, The Price of Privilege, explores the reasons why teenagers from affluent families are experiencing epidemic rates of emotional problems.  Her book, Teach Your Children Well, outlines how our current narrow definition of success unnecessarily stresses academically talented kids and marginalizes many more whose talents and interests are less amenable to measurement. The development of skills needed to be successful in the 21st century- creativity, collaboration, innovation – are not easily developed in our competitive, fast-paced, high pressure world. Teach Your Children Well gives practical, research- based solutions to help parents return their families to healthier and saner versions of themselves.

Dr. Levine is also a co-founder of Challenge Success, a project born at the Stanford School of Education. Challenge Success believes that our increasingly competitive world has led to tremendous anxiety about our children’s’ futures and has resulted in a high pressure, myopic focus on grades, test scores and performance. This kind of pressure and narrow focus isn’t helping our kids become the resilient, capable, meaningful contributors we need in the 21st century. So every day, Challenge Success provides families and schools with the practical research-based tools they need to raise healthy, motivated kids, capable of reaching their full potential. We know that success is measured over the course of a lifetime, not at the end of the grading period.

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. She has had a large clinical practice with an emphasis on child and adolescent problems and parenting issues. Currently however, she spends most of her time crisscrossing the country speaking to parents, educators, students, and business leaders. Dr. Levine has taught Child Development classes to graduate students at the University of California Medical Center/ San Francisco. For many years, Dr. Levine has been a consultant to various schools, from preschool through High School, public as well as private, throughout the country. She has been featured on television programs from the Early Show to the Lehrer report, on NPR stations such as Diane Rheems in Washington and positively reviewed in publications from Scientific American to the Washington Post. She is sought out both nationally and internationally as an expert and keynote speaker. 

Dr. Levine and her husband of 35 years, Lee Schwartz, MD are the incredibly proud (and slightly relieved) parents of three newly minted and thriving sons.

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