A READING LIST FOR PARENTS
—REVISED MARCH 2013
[This bibliography was started in 2005 by Audrey Carlson, parent of an MA alumnus, a woman who continues to help other parents as a board member of Montana Academy Foundation. Please e-mail suggestions or comments about particular books to John McKinnon, MD (email@example.com). We will also add your suggestions and comments to the relevant public side of the MA website].
Terri Apter. The Myth of Maturity. New York, W.W. Norton & Co., 2001.
This is an intelligent book, written by an Englishwoman, I seem to recall, who describes, quite independently and quite well, much the same idea we have about the troubles young people struggle with, beause of immaturity.
Susan Bordo (1959) Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body. Berkeley: University of California Press.
John Bradshaw. Healing the Shame That Binds You. Deerfield Beach, Florida: Health Comm. 1988.
A Bradshaw book about family.
Diane Ehrensaft. Spoiling Childhood. New York, The Guilford Press, 1997.
This book describes the results of a childhood without limit-setting in terms that we would readily agree with. More broadly, Eherensaft coins the term “kinderdult” to describe children made the center of the parental universe, and suggests, in effect, that such parents get a life.
Erik H. Erikson. Childhood and Society. New York, New York: W. W. Norton, 1950.
The classic essay on “The Eight Ages of Man” is especially noteworthy—and all parents ought to read this essay on the psycho-social stages of development.
James W. Fowler. Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning. San Francisco, HarperSan Francisco, 1995.
The single best short summary of the key developmental works of Jean Piaget, Erik Erikson and Robert Kohlberg—a brilliant book. Don’t be put off by the reference to faith, if you are likely to put aside a religious book. This is not a religious tract. More precisely, it is a book about human faith, but it is predicated on a very competent discussion of the stages of psychological maturation.
Harry Guntrip (1971) Psychoanalytic Theory, Therapy, and the Self: a Basic Guide to the Human Personality in Freud, Erikson, Klein, Sullivan, Fairbairn, Hartmann, Jacobson, & Winnicott. New York: Basic Books.
Robert Kegan. In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1994.
Harvard researcher, excellent resource but a difficult text. Kegan’s The Evolving Self is also excellent, but PhD’s find it a difficult read. These books have had a very important influence on the thinking of the MA leadership.
Paul Krugman (2007) “How to Save the Middle Class from Extinction,” keynote address, Economic Policy Institute conference, Agenda for Shared Prosperity, excerpted on Alternet.com. The link: http://www.alternet.org/story/48988/
I restrain myself from political comments, even wise-cracks, but have to make exceptions. This Princeton economist writes for the NY Times and does not lack a distinctive political and ethical vantage. Yet it’s hard to come away from Madeline Levine’s The Price of Privilege or Jean Twenge’s Generation Me without asking how we got to our contemporary culture of narcissism, which is the economic context in which our children must make their way. Krugman offers one of the more thoughtful answers I have come across.
Christopher Lasch (1979) A Culture of Narcissism, New York, WW Norton.
This 60’s book predicted the epidemic of narcissism in convemporary American culture. Unfortunately, its psychoanalytic jargon makes it harder to read than it needed to be.
Madeline Levine (2006) The Price of Privilege, Harper Collins.
A Marin County therapist whose eloquent contemplation about the clinical results that may follow from economic privilege is must reading for MA parents—and for American parents more broadly. This book can be read side-by-side with Jean Twenge’s new contribution, Generation Me.
James F. Masterson (1988) The Search for the Real Self: Unmasking the Personality Disorders of Our Age. New York: The Free Press.
This is a technical book meant for therapists.
Robert J. McKenzie, EdD (1998) Setting Limits. Roseville, CA, Prima Publishing.
This book provides pretty good, practical, concrete advice about how to set limits. It’s less helpful about why one bothers.
John McKinnon, MD (2008) An Unchanged Mind: The Problem of Immaturity in Adolescence. New York: Lantern Books.
-------------------------- (2010) To Change a Mind: Parenting to Promote Maturity in Teenagers. New York: Lantern Books.
Alice Miller (1979) translated by Ruth Ward. The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self. New York, NY: Perennial, HarperCollins Publishers.
This is a classic book, widely read by child therapists, written by a Swiss psychoanalyst, which describes the effects upon children of parental narcissism.
Diane Ravitch (2010) The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, New York, Basic Books.
This is an authoritative review of sixty years of educational “reform” in the United States—and a convincing debunking of contemporary efforts to improve student performance with narrowly-defined testing and “No Child Left Behind” attempts to “hold teachers accountable” for those test scores.
Pasi Sahlberg (2011) Finnish Lessons: What can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? New York, Teachers College Press.
This book is required reading for anyone who imagines that No Child Left Behind or Teach for America or Race to the Top offer proper paradigms for public school reform in America, or believes that attacks on teachers’ unions and “holding teachers responsible” or closing schools or “choices” of charter schools provide the right prescriptions for what ails American public education. It’s a little hard to read this account of Finland’s radically different approach and still think so.
Joshua Wolf Shenk (2012) “What Makes Us Happy?” The Atlantic, June 2009.
This is a piece, written for an educated lay audience, about George Vaillant and the Harvard Grant Study—and, in particular, George’s conclusions, at the end of the study and in the closing years of his own life, about what makes for happiness.
Daniel Siegel. The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are. New York, The Guilford Press, 1999.
This is a brilliant summary of neuro-psychological (e.g., MRI scaning) studies, which correlates their findings with the classic descriptions of human psychology.
Scott E. Spradlin (2003) Don’t Let Your Emotions Run Your Life: How Dialectical Behavior Therapy Can Put You in Control. Oakland, CA, New Harbinger.
A user-friendly workbook approach to Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), the practical, paint-by-the-numbers approach to Borderline Personality Disord. The method is particularly interesting, as it’s recognizably derived from what skilled therapists do in therapy with patients troubled in this way, but is intended for use by laymen, and is meant to be perfectly comprehensible to patients, themselves. Its inventer, Marsha Linehan, recently noted in public that she, herself, suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder.
Paul Tough (2011) “What if the Secret to Success is Failure?” New York Times Magazine, 14 September 2011.
------------------(2012) How Children Succeed. New York,
Houghton Mifflen Harcourt.
This is a book written by a writer for the New York Times Magazine, who assembles a great deal of the research to do with academic performance (in grade school and high school, particularly), and concludes that academic success does not depend so much on IQ or deft teachers, albeit both are important, but on the development of good character. This is to say, he uses a somewhat different diction, but is arging that the maturation of personality (character) is what divides high-performance students from flounderinig students. This, of course, is precisely what we think, too.
Jean Twenge (2007) Generation Me. New York, The Free Press.
This is a description of the predicament of young people born after 1970 (her year of birth). Twenge wrote a PhD thesis and then this book as a professor at UCSD. I found it a provocative, convincing description of a political and economic shift in our culture since the sixties. My daughter was assigned this book (in law school) and couldn’t put it down. “It’s me!” she said with a mixture of recognition, relief and humiliation. What’s missing is an explanation for this cultural shift (but see Krugman cited above).
--------------------------- (2009) The Narcissism Epidemic: Livinig in the Age of Entitlement, New York, The Free Press.
George Vaillant (1983) The Natural History of Alcoholism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
This account of the course of alcoholism over time is drawn from the Harvard Grant Study, i.e., it’s an attempt to trace backward into adolescence the precursors of alcohol addiction in adults.
--------------------------- (1993) The Wisdom of the Ego. Cambridge: Harvard U Press.
--------------------------- (1998) Adaptation to Life. Cambridge: Harvard U Press.
This book, and the one preceding it here, describes psychological “defense mechanisms” as well as they have ever been described. But of equal importance, he clusters defenses according to their “maturity.” Or, put another way, he shows how children, immature teenagers, and adults with personality pathology rely upon more primative, relatively “immature” defenses, while mature adults use mature defenses, which is one explanation for the problems and incapacities of the former and the relative emotional health of the latter.
--------------------------- (2002) Aging Well. New York: Little Brown & Co.
This is a brilliant book and a splendid summary of the results, at the far end of the life cycle, of three long-term prospective studies that follow a cohort of young people throughout their lives. For those of us who are aging, it’s riveting reading. And of course it has everything to do with young people, too, and what it is in upbringing and in experience that correlates with lives well lived.
--------------------------- (2012) Triumphs of Experience. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Ditto. This book, more particularly, summarizes the results of the Harvard Grant Study (of Harvard sophomores followed all the rest of their lives).