The Shifting Experience of Self   /   Spring 2011   /    Book Reviews

Watching and Worrying

Jeffrey S. Dill

Cristian Ungureanu; flickr.

Walk through the leafy quads of most college campuses in the United States, and you will likely see students with cell phones attached to their ears. Do a little eavesdropping, and you will soon learn that they are not only talking to friends about the evening’s plans or sharing the latest Facebook gossip. They are quite often talking to their parents. 

The frequency of this contact—an average of more than ten times a week by one measure—and the fact that parent and child initiate it equally, make it a historically unique phenomenon. Margaret Nelson wants to know how and why such patterns of behavior are now considered normal. Her book Parenting Out of Controlis a thoughtful study of what appears to be a new style of “overparenting” marked by an unsurpassed intensity and vigilance. A plethora of books, articles, and blogs about “helicopter parents” and the “overscheduled child” sustain a continued buzz in the public imagination about these developments. 

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