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CONTEXTUAL RISKS FOR MALADJUSTMENT: THE HIGH COSTS OF AFFLUENCE Suniya S. Luthar Professor, Developmental and Clinical Psychology Teachers College, Columbia.

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Presentation on theme: "CONTEXTUAL RISKS FOR MALADJUSTMENT: THE HIGH COSTS OF AFFLUENCE Suniya S. Luthar Professor, Developmental and Clinical Psychology Teachers College, Columbia."— Presentation transcript:

1 CONTEXTUAL RISKS FOR MALADJUSTMENT: THE HIGH COSTS OF AFFLUENCE Suniya S. Luthar Professor, Developmental and Clinical Psychology Teachers College, Columbia University 525 West 120 th Street New York, NY USA

2 CONTEXTUAL RISKS FOR MALADJUSTMENT: THE HIGH COSTS OF AFFLUENCE programmatic research findings on children characteristics of families & communities [ cross-disciplinary evidence ]

3 RESEARCH ON AFFLUENT, SUBURBAN YOUTH first cohort studied as comparison group prior studies: Inner-city peers endorse disruptive behaviors, high peer status ~ declining grades * “inner-city phenomenon” or “adolescent phenomenon”?

4 Suburban school Inner-city school n % girls 55% 54% % Caucasian82% 13% Free/reduced lunch 1% 86% Measurement: Multi-informant, multi-trait self-reported problems (internalizing & externalizing) behavioral competence (peer-, teacher-ratings, grades) Study 1: Comparisons involving 10th graders *

5 Self-reported adjustment (mean scores) ___________________________________________ GIRLS BOYS Suburb In-city ____________________________________________ Phys. anxiety Worry Social anxiety Depression Substance use ____________________________________________

6 Proportion of youth above clinical cutoffs _________________________________________________ GIRLS BOYS Norm Suburb In-city Depression 7% 22% 18% 7% 5% 1% Anxiety 17% 22% 17% 17% 26% 18% ____________________________________________________ Substance use Alcohol 61% 72% 64% 61% 63% 61% Illicit drugs 38% 46% 26% 38% 59% 33% _________________________________________________

7 Correlates of substance use Suburban boys & girls: substance use linked with depression, anxiety ‘self-medication’ to alleviate distress Suburban boys: substance use linked with peer popularity links robust with controls for internalizing, externalizing & academic indices

8 Follow-up of sample through high school ____________________________________________ Girls above clinical cutoff 10th grade 12th grade Depression 22% 19% Anxiety 22% 30% ____________________________________________ Substance use 10th grade 12th grade Girls Boys Girls Boys Drink to intox. 38% 42% 60% 63% Marijuana 40% 38% 60% 50% ____________________________________________

9 Longitudinal analyses: Antecedents of substance use hierarchical regressions, control for baseline scores self-medication: baseline anxiety ~ increased substance use baseline boys peer popularity ~ increased substance use

10 Summary of findings: Suburban high school students more problems than inner-city and normative groups prominent: substance use (boys & girls), depression (girls) substance use linked with self-medication, endorsed by peers, for boys links found cross-sectionally and longitudinally

11 Questions: Do problems generalize to pre-teens? Causes of such problems in ‘privileged’ groups? Study 2: Sixth & seventh graders in suburban school n = 302, 92% Caucasian, median family income $102,000

12 Findings * problems low among 6 th graders 7 th grade girls: 14% above cutoff for depression (norms 7%) 7 th grade boys: 7% drinking to intoxication once / month, 7% marijuana use once / month Correlates of substance use as in Luthar & D’Avanzo (1999) internalizing symptoms among boys & girls peer popularity among 7 th grade boys

13 Roots of adjustment problems? drawing on evidence from sociology, clinical psychology ethnographic data: interviews with “key informants” two factors implicated 1. Achievement pressures maladaptive perfectionism (self-report) parents’ emphasis on achievements (ranking)

14 Parent values How important is it to your parents that you : RANK are respectful to others ______ attend a good college ______ always try to help others in need ______ make a lot of money in the future ______ excel academically ______ are kind to others ______ (Total = 10 items) of 5 top-ranked (weighted) items, # achievement items added to assess Parent Emphasis on Achievement

15 1. Achievement pressures maladaptive perfectionism (self-report) parents’ emphasis on achievements (ranking) 2. Isolation from adults children often alone at home (supervision after school) little relaxed “family time” (closeness to mother, father)

16 Hierarchical multiple regressions _________________________________________________________ Distress Delinq Subs Use Grades G B G B G B G B ______________________________________________________________ Predictors Step Age Peer victimiztn Perfectionism Par achiev emph Mother close Father close After-school sup _______________________________________________________________

17 Summary of findings: Suburban middle school students * consistent with Luthar & D’Avanzo (1999) 6 th graders untroubled 7 th grade girls – clinically significant depression 7 th grade boys – peer approval for substance use pathways to problems achievement pressures closeness to parents

18 Consistency of results: Incidence of problems 800 teens – negative link between SES & well-being closeness to parents negatively linked with family income 75,000 High closeness, mothers 75% 65% High closeness, fathers 66% 54% substance use higher among wealthy adolescents

19 Consistency of results: Correlates of substance use qualitative data – high SES teens use to alleviate distress popular preadolescent boys ‘party’ (drink) in high school adolescent boys alcohol use tied in to social conformity college students in triad of alcohol, sports, partying

20 Consistency of results: Achievement pressures Doherty (2000) – ‘overscheduled hyperactivity’ Suburban youth - casual attitudes to sex - achievement pressures commonly cited Psychotherapists re: children - achievement pressures -> stress-related symptoms - ‘intensely competitive society of the rich’ - exaggerate health problems to avoid competing

21 Consistency of evidence: Parents’ absence Investigative report - syphilis outbreak among teens, Georgia suburb - youth interviews: promiscuity & isolation from parents - “disconnect between children & families” - “emptiness of houses, absence of parents” Psychotherapists’ reports - changing caregivers affects secure sense of self - parents appreciate children for ‘star qualities’

22 AFFLUENT SUBURBIA: FAMILIES & COMMUNITIES comparatively more research on wealthy adults forces affecting parents affects their children too - evidence of problems among upper SES adults - representative explanations, at the individual, community, & cultural level *

23 Wealth-unhappiness links: Cross-disciplinary evidence Epidemiology, social psychology: depression higher in economically developed countries Americans twice as rich as in 1950’s… divorce, suicide, depression rates much higher ‘American paradox’: more striving for money ~ more numerous problems

24 Wealth-unhappiness links: Individual-level explanations Sociology, social psychology, developmental psychology high productivity ~ high stress pursuit of material goals ~ low access to other rewards when Yuppie values > relationship emphasis = unhappiness when extrinsic goals > intrinsic goals = poor mental health cold, controlling early care → materalistic orientation insecurity → solace in material goods

25 Wealth-unhappiness links: Community-level explanations Economics, evolutionary psychology using market-based services inhibits support networks wealthy communities’ inhabitants feel more friendless evidence of ‘true’ friendship – helped in dire need modern conditions – few threats to survival more amenities – few critical tests of relationships … ‘true or fair-weather friend?’; mistrustfulness the rich buy services → little proof of others’ concern

26 Wealth-unhappiness links: “Culture of affluence” Cross-cultural & social psychology: individualistic cultures - transience of groups collectivistic cultures -groups assigned, dependencies develop wealth => high choice in goods & services linked with depression … because of expectations of control failures attributed to personal factors… fosters depression

27 Gender specific stressors Mothers - Isolation intellectually rich education; home with children miss work-related gratifications (support, efficacy) Mothers with careers dual pressures – at jobs & as mothers

28 Gender specific stressors Fathers - career setbacks vervet monkey, alpha males have high serotonin on losing position, loss of serotonoin, ‘depression’ humans: challenges of rivalry & status-striving

29 CURRENT WORK & FUTURE DIRECTIONS Research I. Prospective school-based study seven-wave longitudinal study; n ~ 350; 7, 8 th, 9 th grade assessments done with retention ~ 90% parallel study of inner-city cohort: 6 th, 7 th, 8 th grades II. Pilot study of affluent mothers with psychiatric disorders parallel to current study of low SES mothers with depressive, anxiety, substance abuse disorders, & their children

30 Preventive interventions collaborative, multi-disciplinary team schools, Dept. Human Services, United Way, media three major goals I. Children after-school program for middle school students after-school & evening program for high school students

31 II. Parents promoting understanding of children’s needs, optimal parenting in community context workshops organized by PTA for large groups for mothers experiencing trouble, small group sessions Relational Psychotherapy Mothers Group (RPMG trials)* manualized clinical intervention III. Community fostering community awareness, via media campaign

32 Summary suburban youth not untroubled compared to inner-city and normative samples, more substance use & internalizing symptoms exploration of causes; two sets of factors pressures to achieve & isolation from parents wealthy adults also less happy than others pursuit of material rewards affects interpersonal relationships culture of affluence; individualism, low mutual support


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