'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

  • Government 'will not pursue deportation' of former child refugee: Goodale

    Canada News CTV News
    A former child refugee who pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer will no longer have to fight the federal government in court over his right to stay in Canada. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale confirmed in a tweet Tuesday that the government “will not pursue deportation” for Abdoul Abdi. Source
  • Nowhere to run: Rohingya hunker down as monsoon arrives

    World News CTV News
    UKHIYA, Bangladesh -- The hill on which the young woman's shelter is being built is so unstable that the earth crumbles under your feet. The threat of landslides is so dire that her neighbours have evacuated. Source
  • Trans woman in Winnipeg wants to make ally, not enemy of radio host Dave Wheeler

    Canada News CBC News
    A trans woman in Winnipeg says she wants to help educate radio host Dave Wheeler after he made on-air comments about trans people that many have condemned. Cynthia Fortlage says she was shocked and infuriated by Wheeler's words on the CITI FM program Wheeler in the Morning on Monday, and a Facebook Messenger conversation he was involved in surrounding the commentary that was later shared publicly. Source
  • The case against Russians indicted for U.S. election cyberattacks

    World News CBC News
    Twelve Russian military intelligence officers are accused of hacking into the computers of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign and of attempting to penetrate voting systems across the U.S. 12 Russians indicted for cyberattacks during U.S. presidential election Source
  • Immigrant children describe hunger and cold in U.S. detention

    World News CTV News
    SANTA ANA, Calif. -- Wet and muddy from their trek across the Mexican border, immigrant children say they sat or lay on the cold, concrete floor of the immigration holding centres where they were taken. Source
  • Missing boy's remains found along North Saskatchewan riverbank

    Canada News CTV News
    MELFORT, Sask. - Police say they have found the remains of a little boy who disappeared in Prince Albert, Sask., in the spring. Sweetgrass Kennedy was last seen on May 10 and Prince Albert police had said evidence suggested the four-year-old fell into the North Saskatchewan River. Source
  • 800 low-cost airline passengers stranded in Montreal for 4 days

    Canada News CTV News
    Eight hundred airline passengers have been stranded in Montreal for the past four days after a low-cost airline cancelled a series of flights to Paris. Spanish airline Level cancelled the first flight on Saturday. Source
  • Trump's stunning Europe trip smashes presidential precedent

    World News CTV News
    HELSINKI -- Plenty of U.S. presidents have created commotion in their travels abroad, but none as much as U.S. President Donald Trump. The president's tumultuous trip across Europe, historians say, smashed the conventions of American leaders on the world stage. Source
  • B.C. anti-gang agency to monitor Hells Angels anniversary party

    Canada News CTV News
    NANAIMO, B.C. -- As many as 300 Hells Angels club members and other outlaw motorcycle gang members are expected to descend on Vancouver Island this weekend. The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C. Source
  • Forgotten hero in marine disaster honoured by Red Cross in N.L.

    Canada News CTV News
    ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- Forty-six years ago, Leo Bullen gave up his life when he offered his life-jacket to a small child as a fire raged around them on the schooner Delroy, sinking the ship and claiming the lives of nine people. Source