Hofer is a professor of psychology at Middlebury who has researched the link between parent-child communication and the development of independence in adolescents and young adults. Moore is a journalist and frequent contributor to the New York Times. In this book they present a compilation of some research and some investigative reporting with many interviews of students, parents, and administrators who have a range of opinions on the issue.
A few highlights:
- Families of the college students interviewed communicate one way or another an average of more than 13 times per week.
- Parents are intervening in course selection, paper editing, negotiations over grades, and roommate concerns in ways that college administrators find distressing if not illegal and unethical.
- The new connectivity between generations can stir some complicated involvement that not all parties find helpful or healthy.
- Parents need to be better listeners and not problem solvers. Having easy access to advice with one click may serve to increase anxiety in parents as well as kids.
- Dependence on and easy access to Mom and Dad does not foster resilience, patience or self-reliance.
- These new relationships are so pervasive now that it may be the start of a new inter-generational norm, heretofore not experienced in American life.
To its credit, this book has one of the best chapters I have read on mental health issues at college. Not surprisingly, the bottom line when a child is struggling in this way is that communication and connection need to go way beyond the one on one parent-child and include key professionals.
Finally, this is a wonderful book for grandparents to read who often feel left out of modern communication but at the same time marvel at their family's connectivity. Having a generational perspective on this can help all of us carefully define what the "new normal" should look like so that everyone benefits in the long run.
image from bbc.co.uk