The news site of Miami Palmetto Senior High School

A new worry for the wealthy

January 7, 2016

In 2013, 16 year old Ethan Couch killed four people in a drunk driving accident in Texas. Couch was sentenced to 10 years of probation and no jail time based on the novel defense that he suffered from “affluenza.”

Affluenza, the pseudo medical condition driven by excessive access to money, can cause one to be obsessive over wealth, materialism and power. In short, economic success becomes directly related to happiness and social prosperity. Affluenza affects many young people who inherit wealth and thus feel socially superior to others.

Symptoms of affluenza include stress, depression and anxiety as people become obsessive over the need to maintain a certain standard of wealth and material possessions. Affluenza can also cause loneliness as many victims find greater comfort in tangibles rather than in relationships with others.

Affluenza is common amongst lottery winners who suddenly come upon large sums of money and become overwhelmed  with their newfound fortunes. However, the best example of affluenza is the “typical rich kid” raised by nannies with access to unbelievable resources. Many of children have “empty childhoods” during which they fail to develop a closeness with their parents and become so self-elevated that they isolate themselves from other children as toys and riches replaced relationships with others.

“I think that certainly people can be raised in an environment where they do not have limits put upon them,” child psychologist Dr. Stephanie Wasserman Askari said. “That can lead them to become not so considerate of others and not contribute to society in the most concerned way.”

While some may view affluenza as a distant thought that cannot or does not affect them, the condition implies a sort of arrogance, narcissism and a feeling of superiority; something that many children thrive on today. Whether by driving a nicer car or living in a nicer home, many students– even at Palmetto– suffer from affluenza.

“I think people think about themselves differently, especially those that are wealthier than others,” sophomore Kalia Richardson said. “It’s common, it’s visible but people don’t really show it off.”

Ethan Couch’s criminal defense team employed an affluenza defense on his behalf arguing that because Couch’s parents overindulged their son, he never learned the difference between right and wrong.

“I think that this term was probably created and it sounds like it is being used to benefit him in this case,” Wasserman Askari continued.

Even though affluenza is not a medical condition recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, it was successfully used to minimize Mr. Couch’s sentence after being found guilty of murdering of four people.

“ [Affluenza] shouldn’t be used as a defense because he committed a crime and the fact that he was raised like that does not justify what he did,.” said senior Gerardo Alvarez said.

Since his 2013 sentenced to 10 years of probation, Couch and his mother, Tonya Couch, were arrested on December 28, 2015 in Mexico after he failed to attend a meeting with his probation officer.  On January 5, 2016 Tonya Couch appeared in a California court on counts of a felony of hindering oppression by aiding her son in escaping parole in Texas, after being deported from Mexico. Mr. Couch remains in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico as his deportation case was stayed.


To find out more about Affluenza and how to prevent it, click here.

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