Why Child Stars Fall Apart: Page 2

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Often Type T personalities are able to overcome that destructive side by using their creativity and innovative qualities.

“They’ll say, I can find my way out of this mess,” Farley said.

Child stars tend to face different hurdles than most of us, pointed out Karen Sternheimer, author of "Celebrity Culture and the American Dream: Stardom and Social Mobility" and director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Sociology at the University of Southern California.

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“For many people in this circumstance, the power dynamic between them and traditional authorities can be reversed, especially if the child is supporting their family financially,” she said.

Child celebrities often miss out on institutional experiences like school that provide a common background for most people. They grow up with greater autonomy and fewer constraints than most kids. Combine that with early success, and child stars may “come to see themselves as special, as they are treated like deities by fans and some around them,” Sternheimer said.

Those early experiences may lead them to believe that rules don’t apply for them, or that they won’t face the same consequences as others.

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One consequence child celebrities face more than most, however, is the scrutiny of everything they do, living so much of their lives in the public eye.

“These stories serve as modern-day morality tales reflecting a cultural tension between consumption and self-control,” Sternheimer said.

“(In my book) I write that such stories can be connected to the Horatio Alger rags-to-riches stories of the 19th century, which emphasized hard work and moral turpitude as necessary for economic success. Stories of out-of-control celebrities -- especially young ones -- highlight failures of self-control.”

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