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Therapist Who Coined Term: 'Affluenza' Doesn't Excuse DUI Teen

By Bill Hoffmann   |   Monday, 16 Dec 2013 07:20 PM

Jessie O'Neill, a mental health therapist who coined the term "affluenza," doesn't buy its use by a Texas teenager to justify killing four people in a drunk-driving case.

"I don't think it's a valid defense," O'Neill told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.

"The part of affluenza that applies to this young man is the inability to delay gratification and tolerate frustration," O'Neill said Monday.

Story continues below video.



Attorneys for Ethan Couch, 16, said he was suffering from "affluenza" — brought on by having wealthy parents who don't set limits — and that made him not guilty of a crash that left four people dead in June.

Last week, a judge sentenced him to 10 years of probation but no jail time — a punishment that sparked cries of injustice.

O'Neill, who coined the term in her 1997 book "The Golden Ghetto: The Psychology of Affluence," says Couch "fits the standard picture" of an affluenza-ridden adolescent.

"But there are thousands and millions of kids walking around in our country with affluenza who don't go out and get drunk and plow down four people," she said.

O'Neill invented the term to describe "the inability to delay gratification and tolerate frustration, a loss of future motivation, a false sense of entitlement, low self-esteem, lack of self-worth, and frequently a loss of emotional affect."

"The money that obviously played a part in this child's upbringing provides a big . . .  Band-Aid for all of the wrong behavior that might have gone on. I call it the buyout principle. Parents that buy their children out of the consequences of their negative behavior."


See the “Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV each weekday live by clicking here now.


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Jessie O'Neill, a mental health therapist who coined the term "affluenza," doesn't buy its use by a Texas teenager to justify killing four people in a drunk-driving case.
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