FROM CARE TO CONTROL
hen the elite students on my college campus are asked about contact with their parents, they report that they initiate communication almost as much as their parents do. They report as well that they do not believe communicating with their parents more than ten times a week is too much. Indeed, they say they are “satisfied” with this level of interaction, and some report that they would prefer even more communication with their fathers.1
I’ve observed how this communication plays out in a number of different situations, even beyond my casual observations walking across the central quad. When I told a first-year advisee that she would probably not gain entry into an introductory psychology class during her initial semester on campus, tears welled up in her eyes. When I asked her to consider alternatives, she told me that she couldn’t do so just then, that she would first have to talk to her “mom.” Clearly, the patterns of parental responsiveness that began when they were infants in their cribs have now become taken-for-granted parts of my students’ daily lives. When they have questions, meet difficulties, or simply want to report on their days, they reach out for their “moms” and, somewhat less often, their “dads.” The (relatively few) less privileged students who take my classes and visit my office also own cell phones, and they too often describe themselves as being close to their parents. But they differ from the children of the professional middle class in the nature of their cell phone use and in the nature of this closeness. More of them have already assumed adult responsibilities of employment not just to support their pleasures but also to help put food on the table. They talk to their parents about financial aid forms and how they can reduce the economic burden that college tuition places on their families. And more of them know they have to handle incidental “crises” on their own.