Privilege & Pressure: How Living In Affluence Puts Teens at Risk
Research shows that that substance use among affluent teens is significantly higher than national averages. The same is true of anxiety and depression. Affluent girls in 10th grade experience clinical depression at five times the average rate for girls their age. Given the affluence of Fairfield County and Wilton specifically, these statistics are nothing to take lightly.
Nationally acclaimed researcher Suniya Luthar, PhD is coming to Wilton to speak on this topic at Wilton High School‘s Little Theater on Friday, Oct. 21, at 10 a.m..
Anxiety, depression, alcohol and other drug use… many of us assume that problems like these affect children who experience the pressures of poverty. It seems obvious that kids who deal with urban violence, homelessness or hunger might struggle. We might assume that children who live in affluent communities, but whose families face financial insecurity, could also suffer emotionally. But what about teens whose families are comfortable or even well off? Surely they must be healthier than average. They are so fortunate and privileged.
That assumption is far from reality.
“Never in a million years would we, as parents, think that the good life we have worked so hard to obtain for our families could have a negative effect on our children, “ says Vanessa Elias, president of Wilton Youth Council. “The pressure and stress of our highly scheduled lives that we have come to accept as ‘normal’ is hurting us ‐ and our children. The massive rise in children with anxiety, depression, insomnia, and stomach and headaches is our first clue.”
While she was on the faculty at Yale University, Luthar conducted a groundbreaking study of students in Westport, CT that found affluent teenagers have the elevated levels of anxiety, depression and substance use that most people associate with poverty. Over the last two decades this area has become one of her specialties, and she is widely recognized as an expert on the topic.
Luthar will share highlights of her research on vulnerability in affluent teens and educate parents and school staff on skills and strategies to foster resilience. She will also touch on her more recent research on motherhood and the challenges facing mothers of adolescents today.
Wilton Youth Council’s Elias says, “I’m very interested in hearing Dr. Luthar speak about her new research on mothers living in affluent communities–that we too are suffering from stress, pressure and isolation. We are not powerless, we can do something about it, and I look forward to learning how.”
Luthar is a foundation professor of psychology at Arizona State University and professor emerita of Columbia University’s Teachers College. Her research is frequently cited in news reports and best‐selling parenting books, such as How Children Succeed by Paul Tough and The Price of Privilege by Madeline Levine.
This presentation is free and open to the public. Parents, professionals, school staff and other interested adults are welcome. The program is appropriate for parents with children of all ages.
For more information, call Wilton Youth Services at 203.834.6241.
The program is sponsored by Wilton Youth Council, Wilton Youth Services, Silver Hill Hospital, Weston Youth Services, Westport Positive Youth Development, Wilton Presbyterian Church, Wilton Public Schools, Mountainside Treatment Center, and the Wilton Schools PTAs and PTSA.