Psychology Behind Reckless Spring Break Behavior

This is a rush transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," March 20, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: "Back of the Book" segment tonight, the annual spring ritual of college kids heading south for fun in the sun is underway. This has been going on for about 50 years. But now with video recorders everywhere, crazy conduct can come back to hurt college students big time. But some still do it.

Joining us now from Denver, Dr. Brian Russell, a psychologist and professor at the University of Kansas.

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Now, I read an article you wrote with interest, because a lot of people say, "Look, these college kids do this crazy stuff because they have low self- esteem and they want attention." But you say no. Go ahead. Explain your thesis.

DR. BRIAN RUSSELL, PSYCHOLOGIST/PROFESSOR: I am so sick of hearing about low self-esteem being the source of everybody's problems, Bill. Among his current crop of college students, at least, the bigger problem that I see is hyper-inflated self-esteem to the point where — where these people don't even recognize when they ought to be ashamed. And I think it comes from parenting, Bill. I really do.

O'REILLY: So they — I'm not really getting this thing, because I'm not — I don't know the psychological world. You say they have hyper self esteem and they do this exhibitionistic conduct that we're witnessing now, and these things that is going to come back, because you know they're being recorded.

We've got the video right in front of us, because they feel they're invincible? Or, you know, they can do whatever they want?

RUSSELL: They just feel that everything they do is cool, everything they do is cute. You know, the way that you — it's kind of like Laura and I talked about here on the "Factor" a couple weeks ago about the happiness factor.

You know, shame is not an emotion that we want people to be going through the day all the time feeling. But it's an emotion that you need to have the capacity, the ability to feel, because it's one of your best clues when you are behaving...

O'REILLY: Don't — you're a college professor. Don't you understand that a lot of this is not looked upon by college students and other people, as well, as shameful? There's nothing wrong with this. They're just cutting loose and having fun. Leave them alone.

RUSSELL: Right. And that to me is the problem, Bill. You know, the way that you learn to be ashamed or to feel shame when it's appropriate to feel it is by being corrected by your parents as you're growing up.

And this current crop of students' parents made a big mistake when they decided to cast aside their parents' philosophy of, you know, setting and enforcing boundaries and limits and wanting to, instead, be their kids' friend. And so the goal of parenting was to make the kid feel good about themselves all the time.

And so what you get is now an adult or a young adult that doesn't really feel shame very easily. And it's game on then in Florida.

O'REILLY: I got that. So a lot of parents, no matter what the kid does, it's OK. And there's always an excuse for it or a reason for it. But you know, I'm more interested in the repercussions for the college kids down the line.

So say you take a picture of somebody. And you know it's going to find its way to the Internet. And that college student at age 30 wants to get a job or wants to run for office or wants to do something in corporate America, whatever. And then all the sudden, somebody gets wind of it and bingo. The boss or the voters or whatever see it. And then the person pays a terrible price 10 years down the road for behavior that they do in college.

RUSSELL: Absolutely. I mean, I've — we — I've talked about it on this show. You and I talked about it on "The Radio Factor" back with the Antonella Barba, "American Idol" thing last year.

And you would think that by now we've had enough of these — these famous people getting into trouble with these things that the lesson — as focused as our culture is on celebrities, you would think that this lesson would have gotten across. But unfortunately, you know, I don't know if people think...

O'REILLY: Well, I think it's — a lot of it to do with inebriation. I think that once they get drunk and crazed, then all of the logic goes out the window. And they become vainglorious. .

RUSSELL: Vainglorious. A new "Factor" word.

O'REILLY: Tell the audience what it means, doc.

RUSSELL: It means — it means to be — to be vain and haughty and arrogant and have an inflated sense of self-esteem.

O'REILLY: Right. Anything you do is OK.

RUSSELL: Anything you do is cool.

O'REILLY: Not in this competitive society. Doctor, thanks very much. We appreciate it.

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