08 June 2006

Rich White Kid Syndrome

I'm driving to my office from the courthouse yesterday when I hear the local talk radio guy ranting about the latest item which he is just stunned an outraged about. It's something called intermittent explosive disorder (IED). I don't pay too much attention to it, it's just something silly he's found a rant about. Then I get home and I find the same topic on Dvorak.com. Apparently, according to some researcher, 16 million Americans just randomly become violent without provocation. Anyone wanna take bets on whether I'll be able to use this in court?

Actually, this reminds me a lot of oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). ODD is a disorder found in teenagers and is described as having the following symptoms:
A pattern of negativistic, hostile, and defiant behavior lasting at least six months during which four or more of the following are present:

1. Often loses temper
2. often argues with adults
3. often actively defies or refuses to comply with adults' requests or rules
4. often deliberately annoys people
5. often blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
6. is often touchy or easily annoyed by others
7. is often angry and resentful
8. is often spiteful and vindictive

The disturbance in behavior causes clinically significant impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning.
Of course, since this pretty much describes being a teenager I'm not really sure if any of us went thru our teenage years without suffering from ODD.

One day, as I was sitting juvenile domestic relations court, another defense attorney leaned over to me and described this as "rich white kid syndrome." What he was talking about is the fact that the only people that seem to get diagnosed with this are kids who belong to upper-middle-class families and above. These kids get in trouble and their parents go out and hire a psychiatrist who diagnoses them with ODD. However, if you are a poor kid from the trailer park or from the slum apartments when you get in trouble you're just a bad kid. Nobody steps up with a diagnosis which calls being a bad kid a disorder.


Anonymous said...

Well rich or poor it’s always nice to have money. But does being poor mitigate your crime? After all we do have those wonderful PDs to look out for the interests of the underclass. As to IED, they better hope that I’m not on the jury because I won’t buy that as an excuse. Besides I don’t believe the 16 million figure anyway. Researchers, like kids will say the darndest things.

markm said...

IED sounds like something the defense shouldn't bring up in front of a jury unless your client is probably going to get the death penalty anyway. If you really want to see jury nullification, convince them that your client just can't help being a public danger. It's not a question of whether the jury understands the concept of moral and legal responsibility underlying the insanity defense, it's a matter of whether they care about the law when buying such a defense means that all it will take is a sympathetic pshrink to turn the defendant loose on society again...

Jody said...

An important note in the DSM was left out of this description, to wit: "Consider a criterion met only if the behavior occurs more frequently than is typically observed in individuals of comparable age and developmental level."

At my agency we diagnose poor children with ODD routinely. But usually there's no forensic application.