Down and out in Orange County

Down and out in Orange County

Jennifer Drapkin

SOMETHING IS ROTTEN in suburbia. On average, teenagers who live with wealthy, highly educated parents in tony neighborhoods are more troubled than other teens, even those living in inner-city poverty. Suburban teens smoke, drink and use drugs more than their urban peers and have higher levels of anxiety and depression. Upper-class suburban girls are three times as likely to suffer depression compared with other adolescent girls.

Drug and alcohol abuse often go hand in hand with emotional problems in suburbs. “The implication is that these children are self-medicating,” says Columbia University psychologist Suniya S. Luthar, whose study appeared in Current Directions in Psychological Science.

“We have a cultural assumption that parents who make more money are more affable, more available to their children than parents in dire poverty.” Isolation from parents–both literal and emotional–puts affluent kids at risk.

The study suggested a simple antidote: family dinner. Kids who usually eat with at least one parent have better grades and fewer emotional problems than kids who dine on their own.

COPYRIGHT 2005 Sussex Publishers, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group