Did you happen across this story? A teenager in Texas was given probation versus time in jail due to his lawyers arguing he suffered from “affluenza.” The teen was under the influence while driving a truck, and caused an accident which left four people dead and one victim paralyzed. But his lawyers argued that his affluent upbringing contributed to him being impulsive and unable to fully understand the implications of his actions.
This ruling has set off an emotional, angry debate that has stretched far beyond Texas. Many feel that his “wealth” contributed to this lesser sentence. Yet could wealth contribute to psychological problems that can afflict children of privilege?
In my opinion I do not believe that wealth in and of itself leads to psychological problems. Wealthy families are just as susceptible to struggles and challenges as less wealthy families. Being wealthy may eliminate parents from having to worry about meeting their children’s basic needs or ensuring their access to opportunities, but wealth does not ensure that children are raised with the nurturing and emotional stability that they need.
In this case, I do believe that wealth or “affluenza” may interfere with a child’s ability to make good decisions. Children who are protected from challenges or crisis often possess limited abilities to reason or overcome obstacles. Think about how you learned to solve problems: by taking on adversity, by falling short and figuring out a different approach. Yet in our zest to ensure children are protected from any failures, are we actually raising children who are unable to think for or rely on themselves?
I think that this case provides a perfect opportunity for us to reflect on the opportunities we give children to think for themselves. Sometimes our good intentions to “fix” things or ensure our children have an easy life may actually have the opposite effect than what was intended. Letting children “try it their way” or supporting them when they fail may be a more effective way of ensuring a life of ease in their later years.