In theory, the privileged children of investment bankers and finance professionals should grow up to be successful, well-rounded, happy people. In fact, this isn’t always the case. Goldman Sachs has, bravely, decided to help its employees tackle the issue.
In a tweet this week, the firm said it had brought in Dr Madeline Levine to talk to staff in its Hong Kong office about parenting and child development. A psychologist and author with 25 years’ experience, Levine’s most recent book – and one she specifically discussed at Goldman – is titled ‘The Price of Privilege’ and addresses the problems facing the children of wealthy parents in America.
“America’s newly identified at-risk group is preteens and teens from affluent, well-educated families,” writes Levine. “In spite of their economic and social advantages, they experience among the highest rates of depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorders, somatic complaints and unhappiness of any group of children in this country.”
Fundamentally, Levine diagnoses the problem as high-achieving parents’ high-expectations for their children. “Fewer and fewer affluent teens are able to resist the constant pressure to excel,” she says. They’re “scheduled to within an inch of their lives”, and “can’t find the time – both literal and psychological to linger in the kind of internal exploration that leads to a sense of self”.
Adolescents need to figure out their future selves, says Levine. Instead, what they too often get is “…intrusion – adults implanting often unrealistic ‘selves’ – stellar student, outstanding athlete, perfect kid into their teenager’s already crowded psychological landscape”.
In other words, financial services professionals – at Goldman Sachs and elsewhere – need to be careful not to impose their own competitive, high-achieving standards on the fragile egos of their progeny. With chapters titled, ‘Why Money doesn’t Buy Mental Health,’ and ‘Materialism – the Dark Side of Affluence’, Levine’s book talks directly to a financial services audience. Goldman Sachs deserves plaudits for bringing her in to talk about this to its staff.