Lori Gottlieb’s July/August cover story told coddling mothers and fathers that their parenting techniques were ruining their children. Parents, therapists, teachers, and even kids wrote in to share their perspective.
Lori Gottlieb and the psychologists she cites have found a new way to blame parents. Instead of the old nasty, cold, or absent parents, today’s parents are too protective and permissive, offer too many choices, build false self-esteem through undeserved praise, and cling to adult children to fill their own lonely needs. What is fascinating to this old psychiatrist is Dr. Gottlieb’s failure to mention nonfamilial causes of despair like economic depression, global warming, nuclear and cyber terrorism, famine, drought, disease, and existential despair, all of which are beyond parental influence. With all deference to Philip Larkin, your parents did not “fuck you up”; being born did. I suggest we accept our fate, not find a new way to blame our parents, and work toward a better world outside of the therapist’s office.
William S. Appleton, M.D.
Harvard Medical School
Research examining parent/child ties reveals findings different from those observed by therapists. Our study examining hundreds of parents and thousands of grown children confirmed Gottlieb’s assertion that parents today are more involved in their grown children’s lives than was the case 30 years ago. A quarter of young adults reported receiving financial, practical, and emotional support from their parents several times a week. These young adults did not suffer mental-health problems, however, or have difficulties making decisions. Quite the opposite: young adults who had the closest relationships with parents reported the best psychological adjustment.