Pressure to Perform: High Expectations from Teens’ Wealthy Parents

stressed teen attempting to studyFinancial abundance is largely lauded as a good thing, especially in today’s celebrity- and financial-guru-worshiping society. More money means more security, more possessions, more opportunities, and more success, right?

On the contrary—recent research reveals that money may, in fact, mean more problems for the offspring of wealthy parents. The research, published in the Journal of Development and Psychopathology, found that young people whose parents earn a combined income of $160,000 per year or more experience twice the standard national rate of depression and anxiety than those from less well-to-do families.

Professor Suniya Luthar of Arizona State University, the psychologist responsible for the studies, has spent the past decade researching this subject. In her work with financially privileged children, she has seen firsthand that they are under enormous amounts of pressure to succeed. Unfortunately, the impact of this pressure triggers a significant amount of psychological distress, leading to depression, anxiety, stress, eating and food issues, substance abuse, and other self-harming behaviors.

The pressures faced by children and adolescents who fall into this household income range primarily revolve around academic achievements and extracurricular activities and accomplishments. After-school activities like sports, music, and the arts are meant to be enjoyable and fun. Exercise and creativity are known to be excellent stress relievers and healthy emotional outlets, and when the pressure to excel carries over into these otherwise relaxed areas of life, it follows that young people struggle to maintain a sense of well-being.

On top of high expectations in school and extracurriculars, many of them also face significant social pressure. Though teachers, coaches, instructors, and peers play a part in influencing these overwhelming demands, researchers believe that the driving force behind all the stress is overbearing parents with unreasonable expectations.

Luthar, who has also studied the psychological effects of growing up in impoverished families, stresses in her report that children and teenagers who grow up in low-income households remain at the highest risk for developing serious mental health conditions. However, her hope in publishing these most recent findings is to encourage parents in affluent families to back off a bit where their children’s achievements are concerned.


  1. Del Pozo, M. (2013, November 11). ‘Golden press:’ Teenage mental illness soars in wealthy US, UK families. Reuters. Retrieved from
  2. Narain, J. (2013, November 10). Children from privileged families are more likely to develop mental health problems, reveals new study. DailyMail. Retrieved from

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  • Leave a Comment
  • Stan

    November 15th, 2013 at 5:22 PM

    So finally I have something good to tell my kids about making just enough money to squeak by on!!

  • Garrett

    November 16th, 2013 at 10:34 AM

    I see this a lot at my son’s school. There are these parents who push their kids to do everything and to be eevrything when sometimes I think that the kids just want to have fun and have this sense of being able to relax and be a kid. Yes, I want my son to be a success, but at what cost? I don’t wnat him to feel like he’s losing part of himself in the process.

  • Jeanne

    November 16th, 2013 at 2:31 PM

    Well,the parents are doing it with their kids best interests in mind. You want them to make good grades so that they can get into a good school and then get a good job later on. I don’t think that they are applying the pressure to be mean, but to be realistic with their kids about what the world is really like. You have to work hard to get anywhere and that is pretty much the reality of the world.

  • gregory

    November 18th, 2013 at 4:54 AM

    you have to remember that this is not only coming from the parents

    the schools and the teachers and guidance staff are pushing all of this too, so not only are the kids getting this pressure at home they are also feeling it at school too

  • Bettina

    November 18th, 2013 at 3:58 PM

    Whatever happened to letting kids be kids?

  • Sienna

    November 20th, 2013 at 4:47 AM

    I think that this has become pretty prevalent across the board with very little regard for money and wealth. There are a lot of parents today who are pushing their children to be more than what they have become, and I don’t see that as a horrible bad thing. I think that this is just an extension of the way things have always been, we have always wanted something better and bigger for our children than we were able to experience. I think that now there is just more of a spotlight on this with social media and our instant access to information. I am sure that on all ends of the spectrum there are families taking this to the extreme but I think that overall most parents only want the best chances and opportunities for their child.

  • ava c

    November 26th, 2013 at 4:58 AM

    You need to go with how the child is reacting. Soem children thrive on the pressure and stress and this is when they do their best, and actually when they feel their best when they succeed at something that they thought was difficult.
    There are other children though who get far too stressed for this to be the way that they should live. You need to pay attention to which style works best for your child and help them to succeed no matter which style best fits them.

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