Affluenza: The New Parenting Challenge
Are You Raising A New Breed Of Brats?
Affluenza is a concept which has been gaining traction in the past 5 years – especially amongst psychologists and the judicial system.
Affluenza is defined as disassociation with reality and responsibility because of excessive wealth, which also causes unfulfilled feelings towards the pursuit of wealth.
In its most basic form, it’s suffering from not knowing the consequences to actions because money has always been the solution to certain problems.
The term has been made famous because of the Ethan Couch case which has come to a head this year. Ethan Couch, the 16-year-old male who had a drink-driving accident which killed four people, was defended in court by one of America’s best doctors who stated that Ethan wouldn’t be suited for gaol because he suffered from ‘Affluenza’.
The defence was upheld, and Ethan was sentenced to 10 years’ probation – with no gaol time.
So what’s the low-down on Affluenza? What are the most important questions surrounding the term?
Is this a new social epidemic?
It depends who you ask. Clinical psychologist Heather Irvine-Rundle says that Affluenza is becoming and epidemic, and she cites a study from the Australian Early Development Census as proof of the trend.
The study seems to show that children’s emotional maturity when entering school has seen a downward trend between 2012 and 2015.
Children in 2012 behaved better in classrooms, got along better with other children, accepted more responsibility, and followed rules with fewer bouts of aggression and disobedience.
This seems to be damning evidence, but can we really attribute the study findings to affluenza when there was no correlation mentioned between the two in the study itself?
This seems to be a distinction which is been drawn with no evidence. However, it is true that the way in which we raise our kids has drastically changed throughout the generations.
With most households now having two working parents, and a working week being 38 hours, children are increasingly being raised in households comparably wealthy to those of the past.
This money, some argue, is being used to teach our children the wrong life lessons. To assume that Affluenza is being encouraged by all parents in Australia is not true.
Australians in 2015 spent $110 Billion on their children, when adjusting for inflation, the spending hasn’t changed significantly in the past decade. Only $7 Billion of this is for entertainment.
The majority of the $110 Billion we spend is on education and childcare. However, the evidence from teachers, carers, and parents, is undeniable. There’s something different about this generation of children. They appear to have trouble controlling emotions, obeying instructions, and socialise easily.
The jury is still out as to whether this is caused by our money habits, or some other factor.
How can we identify the early signs of the syndrome in your child?
Signs of Affluenza are not particularly difficult to spot in children, but they can be difficult to come to terms with. Self-honesty is a virtue when it comes to identifying and addressing the problem. The basic symptoms of Affluenza in kids are:
- Trouble coping with minor accidents and things that don’t go their way.
- Trouble behaving at home, while out, or at school.
- Trouble showing respect to others.
- Trouble taking responsibility for their actions.
Even kids unaffected by Affluenza present these personality traits from time to time – sometimes simply because it’s been a long, tough day.
It’s when these become more and more common that parents’ alarm bells should be ringing. These could be signs of Affluenza, which can have detrimental effects on your child’s future, as in the case of Ethan Couch.
Are we putting too much pressure on our kids? Or not enough? Could this be causing the issue?
The issue of pressure on children is one which has been debated for decades. Is there too much pressure on kids? Should we let them relax and be, well, kids? Or should we be teaching them about financial, social, and home responsibilities from a young age.
As always, the answer probably lies somewhere in between.
Too much pressure is certainly the problem at the heart of Affluenza. Kids who grow up with the pressure of having the best toys, the best clothes, and a general consumerist outlook towards life feel disassociated with the simpler, and often more intrinsically happy parts of life.
Things that money don’t need to pay for – playing in the park, playing with friends, and spending time with family – all come second to gaining material possessions. Kids become unhappy because as we know, you can’t have everything in life, but the expectation that you can, is fostered from a young age.
Do you need to be wealthy to be affected by the syndrome?
No. Kids who are too pampered, regardless of the socio-economic status of the family are at risk of developing Affluenza. Of course, it’s easier for those with a lot of money to pamper the kids, than those with little money. The solution: despite wealth or lack thereof, bring your children up without the expectation of wealth.
What can we do as parents to avoid it?
The most powerful solutions to the problem are the ones that focus on children building healthy relationships. Wannabees Family Play Town on Sydney’s Northern Beaches is just the place for this to happen. Through role-play activities which run daily from 10:00am, your kids will learn about healthy relationships with other kids and our society. So come along, join the fun, and help build a better future for the world and your child.
What other signs of a child becoming an Affluenza kid do you know? Are you breeding an Affluenza kid at home? Share this article with a friend and leave your comments in the box below.