An increasing number of children from extremely wealthy families are acting badly. Many times they are engaging in various forms of immoral and illegal activities ranging from drug use to violent behavior.

Some over-privileged children appear on social media sites. However, most are living lives out of the limelight, where they indulge in activities that hurt themselves, their families and other people. They regularly are in conflict with the law, requiring their families to come to their rescue in one form or another. Their families do indeed come to “save” them from the deleterious situations they create.

Over-privileged children tend to be teenagers or young adults in their twenties, but many of them are much older. When they are past their 30s, for example, they are rarely referred to as over-privileged children, even though their actions are no different.

These problem children are the second generation or later scions of wealthy families throughout the world. Between hedonism and hard work, they always choose hedonism. Moreover, between hedonism and any work, they always choose hedonism. In fact, many of them are seemingly striving to continually raise the bar on their self-indulgent, pleasure-seeking behavior.

Over-privileged children have a strong sense of entitlement. Many are narcissistic and tend to look down on those with less wealth. Because they have been in difficult legal situations from which their families have extricated them, many of them believe that the laws do not actually apply to them the same way they apply to other people.

The argument that the parents are to blame for their over-privileged children has some merit. Being given everything they ever wanted, being told they are wonderful and special, and having some if not all of their problems handled by their parents can create an environment fostering the creation of over-privileged children. However, this explanation alone is too simplistic.

Quite a number of heirs to great fortunes grew up in a privileged environment and are diligent, responsible, industrious and caring individuals. While a person’s upbringing has a significant effect on his or her thinking and behavior, part of the equation is the person himself or herself. In many families–wealthy and otherwise–with more than one child, it would be fair to say the children are raised pretty much the same, but their approaches to life are very different.

The burgeoning number of wealthy families–especially extremely wealthy families–can best explain the reason for the burgeoning number of over-privileged children. More rich and super-rich families are being minted than in any time in history. If the same percentage of children of the ultra-wealthy acts out and there are considerably more such families, there will be a reciprocal increase in the number of over-privileged children. With the explosion in over-privileged children, an expanding set of professionals are on call to help the extremely wealthy families deal with problems when they arise.

Wealth planners regularly play an instrumental role in helping the family address aspects of this problem. Creating estate plans that keep over-privileged children from self-destructing is one example. Succession plans that do not provide them the opportunity to damage the family business are another example. All told, with the increase in the number of over-privileged children, the expertise of wealth planners also becomes in more demand. 

Russ Alan Prince, president of R.A. Prince & Associates, is a consultant to family offices, the ultra-wealthy and select professionals.