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Psychology Today: College students' emotional fragility

kenny

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Partial snip ...

Two months ago, I reported on the declining emotional resilience of college students.
I summarized the claims, made by college mental-health personnel throughout the country, that students are having emotional breakdowns at much higher rates than in the past.
I also addressed professors’ claims that students feel more pressure to get high grades and are more prone to blame professors and/or react emotionally if they don’t receive those grades than students of the past.
The post apparently struck a nerve: It quickly amassed more than 650,000 views, more than 200,000 Facebook likes, hundreds of comments, and many requests for interviews and media appearances.
I found some of this attention embarrassing, as some of it seemed to arise more from a desire to blame young people as spoiled and entitled than from a sincere desire to understand their suffering and what we, as a society, might do about it.

I followed that article with another in which I summarized research that college students whose parents are highly intrusive, controlling, and over-protective are especially prone to emotional difficulties and maladaptive feelings of entitlement.
These results are at least consistent with the view that increased “helicopter parenting” is one of the causes of the decline in young adults’ resilience.
Far fewer people read the second article than the first, and some who did were skeptical of the research—perhaps, to some degree, appropriately so.
They complained that the research, and my article, seemed to feed into a knee-jerk tendency to blame parents for young people’s problems.

The rest of the story: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201511/causes-students-emotional-fragility-five-perspectives?utm_source=FacebookPost&utm_medium=FBPost&utm_campaign=FBPost
 

sunseeker101

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Hello Kenny, just a drive-by posting here. This is very interesting to me, in that as an outsider I see certain trends in American parenting that might be harder for a native to see. In short form, this seems to be a tendency to support children to do their best and achieve by holding up the achievement itself as the thing to be valued, and not the resilience or persistence it takes to succeed. As a result, the emotional maturity that children can derive in learning to value their best and most persistent efforts despite failing is ignored.

I see this as emotional penury, and technically the attributes driving it aren't very far away from narcissism. If the achievement makes a parent love the child more, what value does the child have? I think American parents have picked up the wrong end of the stick over time and studies like these will help orient the average parent to refine their approach. Or that's my hope anyway.
 

yennyfire

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Aeolianarpa|1451348899|3967615 said:
Hello Kenny, just a drive-by posting here. This is very interesting to me, in that as an outsider I see certain trends in American parenting that might be harder for a native to see. In short form, this seems to be a tendency to support children to do their best and achieve by holding up the achievement itself as the thing to be valued, and not the resilience or persistence it takes to succeed. As a result, the emotional maturity that children can derive in learning to value their best and most persistent efforts despite failing is ignored.

I see this as emotional penury, and technically the attributes driving it aren't very far away from narcissism. If the achievement makes a parent love the child more, what value does the child have? I think American parents have picked up the wrong end of the stick over time and studies like these will help orient the average parent to refine their approach. Or that's my hope anyway.
Valid point. I love my children "despite" not "because". Growing up, I never learned how to fail and it is caused immeasurable damage to my self esteem. I'm trying to teach our kids that it's the effort that counts, not the results.
 

Asscherhalo_lover

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Unlike many of my own generation (I'm 30) I was raised with hardship, failure, and struggle. It has helped me immeasurably as an adult, I feel, because I know how to deal with problems and find a solution I can live with. I have never taken a handout from a parent, or even asked. I have paid all of my own bills since I was a teen and have lived a life of "fly or fail". I know I have no real help to "fall back" on so I make a point of not ever "falling back". Most of my friends are similar. Some of my friends who I grew up with were raised differently, and subsequently still live at home and cannot take care of themselves. They have dug themselves into such holes of student loan/ credit card debt and have no way of ever digging out. I'm not friends with most of these people because I just can't relate to them anymore, they're still like teens. That's my own experience anyway.
 

ksinger

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Interesting article, but somewhat tangentially, I have to comment on the bias in it. As is usual with pieces like this that opine on "millennials" and their characteristics, it tacitly assumes that the college-bound kids it is discussing - ie middle class and upper middle class - are representative of the whole of the generation. They are, quite simply, not, in spite of the over-coverage that slice receives in the press.

While my husband does see a few students like those described in the article, he is more likely to see kids who have had so much hardship already, and have had to grow up SO quickly, that the idea of them being coddled like the kids of the more affluent, is laughable. That doesn't necessarily mean they have better coping skills, but being spoiled by parents is not the crux of their problem. Of course, they too are living under the insane high-stakes testing environment that the whole country has allowed to flourish, but rather than having parents swoop in to save them, they simply often just give up on school with what they see as its pointless demands for something they feel they can never achieve.

These kids are not helped at all, by the societal swallowing whole of the middle/upper middle class definition of success. When you trot out a college education as the only or default definition of success, a whole swath of the millennials are destined for failure when they can't meet the narrow default definition of success of a minority subset of their generation.

I've tossed it out uncounted times, but I'll throw it out again - only just at 30% of our entire population is college educated (exact numbers available on the US Census site). That is the highest percentage of any time in our history as a country. That means 70% are destined for failure when success is so narrowly defined.
 

lambskin

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I fear my kids will not be able to fully grasp adulthood and responsibility. Although they are only 12 and 13, they lack life skills and hard work ethics that I possessed at their age. Well before I was a teenager, I did laundry, ironed, cooked meals from scratch and helped with yard work. I learned how to mend clothes, shop on a budget, clean a house and generally problem solve. My girls know none of this and I believe that it is our fault as parents. Asking them to do chores causes great family strife and it simply does not get done or done poorly. They believe that since they make great grades and have high test scores that their duties are satisfied. DH and I differ in parenting ideals-he is the 'softer side of Sears" and I am more demanding of them. He usually prevails as he abhors conflict. They maybe able to handle the academics without the entitlement attitude because we have told them that what you put in to studying will show on the grades. However, they will have problems in college with other life skills that go beyond academics which may cause emotional issues.
 

Maria D

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On top of the crushing pressure to achieve near perfect academic performance, many children today lack the experience of making personal decisions from a very young age. A research psychologist posits that the skyrocketing increase in mental health disorders among our youth can be attributed to the fact that kids don't "free play" like they used to - it's all play dates, lessons, and organized team sports. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blo...e-play-and-rise-in-childrens-mental-disorders

As a high school teacher, I am STUNNED by how many of my students are prescribed psychotropic medications. It has gotten worse since I started teaching 15 years ago - but why? In my opinion, we've taken normal childhood/adolescent experiences and pathologized them. Instead of learning to cope with a bout of depression or anxiety, or learn skills to manage ADD, see a psychiatrist and pop a pill. Yes of course there are cases where meds are necessary, but (again, my opinion) it shouldn't be the first line of attack - especially since so little is known about the longterm effects of these meds on adolescents.

I agree with ksinger that we're talking about a small subset of all children. It's kids from families of means who are going from play date to piano lesson to soccer game but never never cross the street without a parent holding their hand.
 

ksinger

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Maria D|1451414210|3967947 said:
On top of the crushing pressure to achieve near perfect academic performance, many children today lack the experience of making personal decisions from a very young age. A research psychologist posits that the skyrocketing increase in mental health disorders among our youth can be attributed to the fact that kids don't "free play" like they used to - it's all play dates, lessons, and organized team sports. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blo...e-play-and-rise-in-childrens-mental-disorders

As a high school teacher, I am STUNNED by how many of my students are prescribed psychotropic medications. It has gotten worse since I started teaching 15 years ago - but why? In my opinion, we've taken normal childhood/adolescent experiences and pathologized them. Instead of learning to cope with a bout of depression or anxiety, or learn skills to manage ADD, see a psychiatrist and pop a pill. Yes of course there are cases where meds are necessary, but (again, my opinion) it shouldn't be the first line of attack - especially since so little is known about the longterm effects of these meds on adolescents.

I agree with ksinger that we're talking about a small subset of all children. It's kids from families of means who are going from play date to piano lesson to soccer game but never never cross the street without a parent holding their hand.

We've taken many aspects of human experience at all life stages, and pathologized them. Kids on drugs as a cheap-date method of making them more tractable, is just the saddest manifestation of that.

Here's support for you observation of increasingly medicated children
http://www.madinamerica.com/2015/12/43-increase-in-adhd-diagnoses-among-school-aged-children-in-us/

And please, no one get upset thinking I am saying the ADD and ADHD do not exist. But over-diagnosed? You bet I think that.
 

redwood66

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My twins are 24 and at times I worried about their social skills early on. We lived rural and there were no babysitters because my husband or I were at home purposely on different schedules. A couple of their teachers had said that one may need to see a doctor for ADHD. I thought this was ridiculous and so did their physician. Was he a bit of work at times for the teacher? Sure and not because he acted out but because he would read a book instead of doing math during math time. This tells me the teacher wanted him compliant by medication. Absolutely out of the question.

When I see the media showing these college students ranting and raving, needing their "safe space", or getting their feelings hurt it just makes me cringe. I can only hope that these kids, and I say kids because they sure are not acting like adults, are not the norm for our society today. Maybe some of them needed their asses paddled when they were younger, or mommy not to save them from every unfortunate disagreement, or any other "terrible" thing along those lines that children in my day had to deal with.

My two went in the military because we told them we would pay for college but not to screw off. They'd better have a plan. So they decided that the military would allow them a chance to make up their minds and save a bit of money. One reenlisted last year and the other got out with a GI bill and $50k saved. I am glad they turned out just fine.
 

packrat

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Maybe part of the problem is not only how we raise, or don't raise, our own kids, but how we want others to treat our kids. At this point, you can't look at a kid cross eyed, no matter what that kid is doing, w/out someone going off the wall about it.

Guess how we get to handle kids in preschool now? We're not allowed to tell them no. Serious. We are not allowed to "expect" certain behaviors, and we are expected to give every child several choices several times a day, for pretty much *everything*. And we are expected to allow them time to do it and if they don't want to, they don't have to-there is NO forcing. Ever.

The thing of it is, life isn't like that. So, go ahead and fire my ass, but that's not how I work in a classroom. If your child chooses to fling himself onto the floor and writhe around and scream and kick b/c he refuses to put his boots on to go outside, we will not be going outside. I am NOT going to give a dissertation to a THREE year old on WHY we need to have boots on, b/c it's 20 degrees outside...*Technically* I am required to then calm the child down by putting the boots on for him so that he may go outside--doing otherwise "deprives" him of a *required* activity.

No.

Do we *really* think children like that are going to grow up and know how to behave like rational adults?

No.

Your child will not go outside. And if your child throws his snack across the room, he will not be having snack. And if your child refuses to wash his hands after toileting, I will not stand there for an hour and reason with him, I will hand over hand it. Molly-coddling at its finest, starts in preschool.

And no, it's not a huge number...but if you're in a room of 1000 kids, and 990 of them are behaving, and 10 of them are acting like shits...you're not going to remember the 990, you're going to pull your hair out and want to run away from the 10. It's the same thing w/adults.
 

chemgirl

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It is certain parents and definitely not all.

I listen to a woman at work complain about how the school mistreats her little angel nearly every day. He has been in every school in the city and none are good enough for her little prince. The latest is one teacher who takes away his cell phone if she catches him texting in class. Her class is before lunch and her rule is students who have their phones out during class can collect them after lunch. Seems perfectly fair.

Except this mom has texted the teacher repeatedly on her personal phone to tell her how unacceptable it is to take a kid's phone away. She has complained to the principal. Today she was telling me how she is planning to go to the school board.

I told her to tell her kid to keep his phone in is bag. Problem solved.

She gave me a pretty ticked off look and told me I would be the same when I have kids. A) I don't plan on having kids and she knows this. B) if I did have a kid they would know better than to complain to me about something like a teacher taking their phone away for a period.

All of the other parents at work make fun of her and her hopeless children so it's definitely not the norm.
 
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