Why Child Stars Fall Apart


Justin Bieber’s neighbors aren’t happy: Complaints about the teenage multi-millionaire pop star range from speeding through the neighborhood to spitting in someone’s face to, most recently, egging a nearby house.

Whatever the current investigation turns up, Bieber is certainly not the first example of a child star misbehaving, but it raises the question: Why do child stars so often fall apart?

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What's the fascination? The reason, it turns out, is more complex than you might think.

Several factors probably come into play, experts said, including personality, a unique upbringing, and an early sense of entitlement.

Frank Farley, a former president of the American Psychological Association who studies risk taking, has a name for the type of personality often shared by celebrities: T-type, or thrill-seeking.

“It’s what gets them to where they are,” he said. “They’re pushing the envelope, they’re taking risks. Going to a casting call and being judged -- most people couldn’t tolerate it. One of the top 10 fears in America is speaking in public.”

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Type T personalities are often highly creative, people who can handle uncertainty and risk. It would be hard to make it in Hollywood without those qualities. But there can be a downside.

“The other side is the T-negative,” Farley said. “It’s the destructive risk-taking, thrill-seeking. Take John Belushi and Chris Farley -- you have to be really creative to be an improvisational comedian. But then in their makeup they had the destructive side and that’s what killed them (both died of drug overdoses at age 33). Let’s hope Justin doesn’t go in that destructive direction.”

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