Rich Kid, Poor Kid

It seems Bob Dylan was as much a scientific visionary as a social one. In his 1966 masterpiece Blonde on Blonde, Dylan rasps of being “helpless like a rich man’s child.” A study in the February issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science argues that growing up in an affluent culture forebodes potential psychosocial risks.

“Children of the Affluent: Challenges to Well-Being” found evidence that upper-class children can manifest elevated tendencies toward substance use, anxiety, and depression. The authors traced these behaviors back to two factors common among affluent teens: excessive pressures to achieve and isolation (both literal and emotional) from parents.

“Family wealth does not automatically confer either wisdom in parenting or equanimity of spirit,” the authors write.

The findings also gainsay previous stereotypes that affluent youth and poor youth are respectively “low risk” and “high risk,” revealing more similarities than differences in their adjustment patterns and socialization processes. Of course “helpless like a high risk child” might not carry the same poetic charm, but it’s in tune with the latest science.

Observer Vol.18, No.2 February, 2005

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