Privileged American Families and Independent Academic Consultants They Employ

Jill M. Smith, Chih-Yan SUN

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

    11 Citations (Scopus)


    This article focuses on how economically advantaged families hire independent educational consultants (IECs) to help them navigate the college application process. We argue that the help provided by IECs embodies the marketization of emotional and relational mediation that many privileged families pursue during times of great anxiety. We offer the concept of "family mediator" to illustrate the relationship between parents, children, and the IECs whom these families employ. First, this article will chronicle why many advantaged parents feel apprehensive about their children's application to college and how they decide to turn to IECs for help. Furthermore, we will demonstrate how privileged parents, especially mothers, rely on IECs to assuage their feelings and emotions. Finally, we will examine how IECs enable parents and children to avoid conflicts and sustain connections to each other. Nevertheless, we find that resorting to IECs as emotional and intergenerational mediators may not always work. Some parents and children occasionally resist the mediation provided by these IECs, just as a few IECs are unwilling to work as the bridge persons in these privileged families in order to protect their professional reputation and boundaries.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)159-180
    Number of pages22
    JournalSociological Forum
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016

    Scopus Subject Areas

    • Sociology and Political Science

    User-Defined Keywords

    • Adolescence
    • Education
    • Emotion
    • Family
    • Generation
    • Market


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