'Affluenza' explained: Great wealth, zero responsibility

DALLAS -- A Texas teenager sentenced to probation for causing a fatal drunken-driving crash was taken into custody late Monday in Mexico, where authorities believe he and his mother fled after he may have violated terms of his probation.

See Full Article

Ethan Couch, now 18, received the light sentence after his attorneys said he suffered from "affluenza," which drew widespread ridicule.

Here's an explanation of the term:

WHAT'S AFFLUENZA?

The term was used by a psychologist testifying for the defence during the sentencing phase of Couch's trial in juvenile court. The expert argued that Couch's wealthy parents had coddled and pampered their son into a sense of irresponsibility -- a condition the expert termed "affluenza" -- to the point that Couch never developed a sense of right and wrong, or suffered any repercussions for bad behaviour.

WHAT DO MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS THINK?

Affluenza is not recognized as a medical diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association, and its invocation during Couch's trial attracted backlash from some medical experts and families of the four people killed in the crash. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the association, is widely used by mental health professionals and makes no mention of affluenza.

Dr. Jeffrey Metzner, a forensic psychiatrist and clinical professor at the University of Colorado at Denver, said there are some similarities to the clinical diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. A person with that disorder feels entitled and doesn't care about other people's needs, he said. But he noted that U.S. law doesn't recognize narcissism as a legitimate defence.

WHERE DOES THE TERM COME FROM?

The term "affluenza" was popularized in the late 1990s by Jessie O'Neill, the granddaughter of a past president of General Motors, when she wrote the book "The Golden Ghetto: The Psychology of Affluence." It's since been used to describe a condition in which children -- generally from richer families -- have a sense of entitlement, are irresponsible, make excuses for poor behaviour, and sometimes dabble in drugs and alcohol.

Affluenza appears to have entered the pop culture lexicon as a combination of two words: affluent and influenza. A website called The Affluenza Project bills itself as a resource for understanding the effects of money on relationships. Various books on the subject theorize that affluence often doesn't translate into happiness or that it leads to overconsumption and a growing sense of alienation and distress.

HAS AFFLUENZA BEEN USED IN OTHER LEGAL CASES?

Shortly after Couch's trial, a supervising attorney at the University of Texas at Austin's Criminal Defence Clinic said he had never heard of affluenza. Richard Segura, who wasn't involved in the case, told The Associated Press in late 2013 that invoking such a defence likely wouldn't lessen any punishment, but said Couch's defence attorney likely would have looked at all the facts in the case and tailored them in a way that he thought would best influence the judge's decision.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Investigators to begin probe of Texas bus crash that left 13 dead

    World News CTV News
    UVALDE, Texas - Federal investigators are getting their first look Thursday at the scene of a head-on collision involving a small church bus and a pickup truck that killed 13 senior adult church members onboard the bus. Source
  • Post-cyclone flood evacuations in Australia affect more than 25,000

    World News CBC News
    Authorities ordered the evacuation of large parts of a major town of more than 25,000 people in eastern Australia on Thursday. A storm system generated by a powerful cyclone that pummelled the northeast two days ago has swept down the coast with heavy rain. Source
  • Police investigating blast at Saskatoon court building

    Canada News CTV News
    SASKATOON - Police in Saskatoon are investigating the detonation of an improvised explosive device at the same building as the city's provincial courthouse. Police say there have been no injuries but there are reports of minor damage to the exterior of the building. Source
  • Trump University lawsuit faces final hurdle for settlement

    World News CTV News
    SAN DIEGO – U.S. President Donald Trump faces one last hurdle to ending nearly seven years of lawsuits over his now-defunct Trump University when a judge decides Thursday whether to approve a $25 million settlement with former customers. Source
  • North Carolina to vote on repealing LGBT bathroom law today

    World News CBC News
    North Carolina Republican lawmakers said late on Wednesday they had reached a deal to repeal the state's controversial law prohibiting transgender people from using restrooms in accordance with their gender identities. The compromise, reached with Democratic Governor Roy Cooper and set to go before the legislature for a vote Thursday morning, would still ban local municipalities, schools and others from regulating bathroom access. Source
  • Thai prosecutors postpone court appearance for Red Bull heir

    World News CTV News
    BANGKOK - An heir to the Red Bull fortune has won another delay in facing charges after an alleged hit and run that killed a police officer almost five years ago. In past orders to report, Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya has been a no-show, complaining through his attorney of unfair treatment, or claiming to be ill and out of the country. Source
  • Rex Tillerson in Turkey: What to expect from the U.S. Secretary of State's visit to Ankara

    World News CBC News
    It will be a short meeting with long wish lists and an even longer list of potential consequences. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in Ankara today for his first official visit with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu. Source
  • France retools anti-extremism efforts after public failures

    World News CTV News
    LENS, France -- France's efforts to combat homegrown terrorism are in turmoil: A group home intended to turn young people away from Islamic extremism sits empty. A move to segregate prison inmates suspected of jihadi sympathies has been abandoned. Source
  • Pedestrian deaths in U.S. spike 11% in study, but precise impact of mobile devices unclear

    World News CBC News
    Pedestrian deaths are climbing faster than motorist fatalities, reaching nearly 6,000 deaths last year — the highest total in more than two decades, according to an analysis of preliminary state data released Thursday. Increased driving due to an improved economy, lower gas prices and more walking for exercise and environmental reasons are some of the likely reasons behind the estimated 11 per cent spike in pedestrian fatalities in 2016. Source
  • U.S. military to investigate Mosul airstrike that killed dozens of civilians

    World News CBC News
    The U.S. military has launched a formal investigation into what role the U.S. played in the deaths of dozens of civilians in Mosul, Iraq, earlier this month, amid warnings from a top American general that the dense urban fight is making it harder to avoid killing innocents. Source