Privileged Children At Greater Risk

We have often been told about the risks that inner city kids face and that their challenges outweigh their more wealthy counterparts in suburban America. Yet current research shows that more affluent and privileged children are increasingly at risk for depression, substance abuse, and suicidal behavior than their peers living in inner cities.

According to Suniya Luthar and Bronwyn Becker at Columbia University, “research over the last 30 years indicates that Americans are twice as rich now but no happier than they used to be. Divorce rates have doubled, the suicide rate among teens has tripled and depression rates have soared.”

Children of affluent families feel more pressure to succeed and as a result experience more negative consequences. Teens who are given everything that they need or want often feel no sense of purpose, do not feel needed, have little contact with adults (since usually both parents are working), and do not pursue anything beyond their own personal pleasure. Privileged children rate their happiness level lower than children in poor urban areas, whom people would typically consider most likely to be unhappy.

Besides all of the usual pressures teens face privileged children feel the added pressure of doing well in school, attending a good college, and upholding the family name. According to Luthar and Becker, a privileged 11 year-old boy can be criticized more by peers for not using alcohol than a 16 year-old in a poorer neighborhood.

During the summer many teens are left unsupervised during the day. Research by the State of Oregon would suggest “that at least 60% of children who are 16 to 18 years old will use alcohol and other drugs during the summer; many on a weekly basis.” They are turning to drugs and alcohol to combat boredom and relieve stress pressures. Children at greatest risk are those who have a lot of unsupervised time, don’t want or have a job but have money to spend, and associate with others who are involved in drugs and alcohol.

Helping a child feel responsible, fulfilled, and needed are the best ways to combat the risks facing privileged children. Instead of always focusing on what is wrong with behavior parents need to focus on “what’s right with children.” Dr. Seligman has demonstrated “that children benefit from parents who help their children express and recognize their strengths and what they are doing to fulfill their potential.” Provide activities that build and reinforce positive character development and teach responsibility. This can be done through challenges issued by parents or initiated by the teen, jobs, outdoor activities, service to others, and team sports.

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About Teresa McEntire

Teresa McEntire grew up in Utah the oldest of four children. She currently lives in Kuna, Idaho, near Boise. She and her husband Gene have been married for almost ten years. She has three children Tyler, age six, Alysta, four, and Kelsey, two. She is a stay-at-home mom who loves to scrapbook, read, and of course write. Spending time with her family, including extended family, is a priority. She is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and currently works with the young women. Teresa has a degree in Elementary Education from Utah State University and taught 6th grade before her son was born. She also ran an own in-home daycare for three years. She currently writes educational materials as well as blogs for Although her formal education consisted of a variety of child development classes she has found that nothing teaches you better than the real thing. She is constantly learning as her children grow and enjoys sharing that knowledge with her readers.