Upper-middle-class kids are now considered high risk due to 'toxic achievement culture'
Kids in families who make around $130K a year are two to six times more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and substance abuse disorders.
When people think about kids who are at-risk, the image of an upper-middle-class child doesn't typically come to mind. In fact, even writing that upper middle-class children as a group are considered at-risk feels awkward. There are children who are food insecure, or are at risk of losing housing or have little to no stability at all, but the risk facing children in upper-middle-class kids, specifically, is different.
"So these kids are at-risk, meaning they are two to six times more likely than the average American teen to suffer from clinical levels of anxiety, depression and substance abuse disorder," Jennifer Breheny Wallace, author of "Never Enough," told CBS Mornings.
Surprisingly, the likelihood increases further among upper-middle-class children of color when compared to their inner-city minority kids with fewer privileges.
Wallace explains that minority children have the excess pressure to achieve with the added layer of discrimination, which leads to their higher likelihood of having those mental illnesses. It seems backward since most parents work really hard to be able to afford their children a better lifestyle than what they themselves may have grown up with. But it seems once you're in a certain tax bracket, the pressure is on and it's crushing children in its wake.
Parents don't have to sit by and cross their fingers, though. Wallace mentions several things parents can do to keep their children from falling into this toxic achievement trap. The first thing experts interviewed for her book told her was that parents need to have an adjustable bar when it comes to what their expectations are of their children.
"Teach them good, healthy work habits. Teach them how to build a life of play and downtime and family time, that they don't need substances to escape from," Wallace says. "That's really the job of a parent."
One of the things most helpful for children who were "healthy achieving," is that they felt like they mattered in their home for who they are at their core. So it turns out, there isn't a super secret magic formula that's difficult to replicate—it seems to be showing your kids that they themselves are valuable outside of how well they do in school, sports or other extra-curricular activities.
The entire interview can be viewed below: