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At What Cost?

David L. Gleason, Psy.D., will visit Dana Hall in early November to share his findings on adolescent development and mental health. His book, At What Cost?: Defending Adolescent Development in Fiercely Competitive Schools, came about after a career in independent schools where he was finding the same problems among the same types of students.
We caught up with Dr. Gleason over email about his research on adolescents and why parents should make plans to attend next month.
How did you get into this area of study? Why did you write At What Cost at this time?
I have been working in independent schools for 35 years and have been a licensed psychologist for 23 of those years. Throughout my entire career, I have tried to specialize in the area of adolescent development, and more specifically, in the area of adolescent mental health. In early 2012, having already treated adolescents from various independent schools for many years, I was struck by what felt like a steadily increasing number of students presenting in my office—and in the offices of my colleagues—with serious and sometimes debilitating conditions of anxiety and depression, and with the various manifestations of those emotional conditions, such as eating disorders, substance abuse, various forms of self-injury, and all too frequently, suicidal thinking and behavior. So in that year, I began writing At What Cost? in a deliberate effort to try to let teachers and parents know just how difficult their teenagers’ lives were becoming.
Are there particular challenges for girls and parents of girls?
While some of the many, many schools I interviewed for this book were single-sex environments, none of their responses to my specific interview questions were any different than the majority of responses I obtained from co-ed environments. Essentially, the problem of too much pressure on adolescents in competitive high schools is both global and ubiquitous. 
What is the one thing you hope parents and students take away from your upcoming presentations at Dana Hall?
As one of my colleagues has stated, “We are responsible for the cultures we create.” The one thing I hope parents, teachers and students alike take away from these upcoming presentations is that we, the adults, have to change our ways in order to educate and parent adolescents in developmentally empathic ways, in ways that both encourage students’ effort and success, but in ways that also respect the vulnerability of their still-developing minds and bodies. Ultimately, At What Cost? is a book that promotes adult development such that they – we – can come to new ways of knowing and understanding what it means to teach and parent children and adolescents according to developmentally empathic principles.
Parents and guardians are invited to the parent presentation on Thursday, November 2, at 7 p.m., in Waldo Auditorium. Dr. Gleason will present to the faculty in advance of meeting with parents. He will follow up with a student presentation during X Block on Monday, November 6. His book is available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.
    • Photo courtesy of Dr. David Gleason

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