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Nancy Berk, Ph.D. Headshot

Career Critiques: Why the Double Standard?

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During a recent episode of my podcast Whine At 9, I interviewed Devon Allman (son of Allman Brothers Band legend Gregg) about his new solo album Turquoise. The album has garnered great reviews and Allman was not only charming, but I soon learned his music can be pretty addictive.

What struck me post-interview, were some of the skeptical responses of listeners and others who learned about our conversation. At that point, none of them were familiar with Devon Allman's music.

"Is he any good?" they asked.

"Why do these kids have to ride their parent's coattails?"

These are common themes in the public critique of children's career choices, but only when the parents are in high profile vocations like entertainment, politics and big-big business. Over the years, I've been as guilty as the next opinionated person, but after meeting plenty of talented celebrity offspring lately, I'm struck by the public's double standards when it comes to judging kids' career choices. It's not unusual for children to imitate their parents or to choose a profession they have come to know. So why are so many people hesitant to give celebrities' kids the benefit of the doubt?

When a daughter takes over her father's dental practice, few question her sincerity or skill in doing endodontic procedures. Few will accuse her of using parental influence to become a leading root canal specialist. The word "proud" gets tossed around a lot when a child takes over the family farm, bakery, shoe repair business, medical practice or car dealership. But when a young adult steps onto a familiar career path that is more "celebrified," eyebrows are raised, comments are issued and the public goes on alert for perfection that is rarely seen at an entry level position in any profession.

In a shift away from family tradition, my children chose to pursue careers in film and television. Friends and strangers often asked why our boys hadn't chosen health care fields like their parents. Then the same people applauded the kids' drive and sense of adventure. Although it might have been uttered beyond earshot, we never heard the question-- "Are they any good?"

Is this a career double standard powered by the idea that people in the public eye are fair game for analysis, or do people hate celebrity nepotism more than the average family favoritism? Could we secretly enjoy retaliating against celebrity status because it reminds us of the cliques in our past that rejected so many?

Whatever the reason, it seems that some hold children of celebrity parents to a higher career standard when they follow in their mother's or father's footsteps. For many young adults, it's easy to jump into the family business, but when that business is in the arts and the public eye, I bet it takes more courage than the public thinks to ignore the negative chatter and push on to pursue your dreams. Instead of criticism, maybe these kids deserve a little more applause.

Note: At 40-years-old, Devon Allman is an accomplished singer, songwriter and guitarist. Fortunately, he's not paid much attention to the skeptics, as he's been too busy carving out his own career path. From his southern rock jam band Honeytribe to his work with Royal Southern Brotherhood and new solo project, Devon Allman hasn't missed a beat. A dad himself, Allman says he wouldn't dissuade his son from pursuing music if it was his passion.