The Curse of Childhood Celebrity

ByABC News via via logo

April 7, 2007 — -- Being a childhood celebrity seems to be both a blessing and a curse, as many children who find fame at an early age find nothing but trouble later in life.

Former "Family Ties" star Brian Bonsall, who played Andy, the youngest member of the Keaton clan, was arrested last week for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend.

"He poured whiskey in my eyes when I was asleep," his girlfriend said on a 911 call, "and then when I got up and tried to leave, he threw me on the ground … probably -- I don't know -- five or six times when I tried to leave."

"It's sad. Here's another tragedy -- someone who we kind of grew up with," psychologist Robert Butterworth said. "But you know, we grew up, maybe he didn't."

From sitcom fame to mug shot infamy, Bonsall joins a long line of childhood stars whose real-life scripts haven't gone according to plan.

Danny Bonaduce became a household name as a member of "The Partridge Family." He continued to generate headlines into adulthood thanks to his battle with drugs and alcohol.

"I actually like to think of myself as a cautionary tale," Bonaduce said. "I had $72,000 when I turned 18, and I said, 'Well, I can try to eke out a life on 72 grand or I can have an outrageous September' -- and I went with September."

The list goes on. Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Leif Garrett and even Macauley Culkin shined as young stars and then struggled outside the spotlight.

"Nobody knows who you are; nobody cares," Butterworth said. "All those friends you had aren't there anymore. The money stops. So, what do you do?"

Many turn to drugs and alcohol.

"Eight is Enough" star Adam Rich has been arrested over and over and spent much of his adulthood in and out of rehab.

Then there's the so-called curse of "Different Strokes." All three child actors had their individual problems with substance abuse and the law. Dana Plato ultimately lost her battle, dying after overdosing on painkillers.

Jodie Sweetin, who played the precocious Stephanie on "Full House," grew up to be a meth addict. She has since gone clean.

"One minute, everyone loves you, everyone wants you, you're it," Sweetin said. "And the next minute, they're like, 'Who? Oh no, never mind.' "

Hollywood has never been an easy place to work, and it's even more difficult for adolescents growing up in front of the cameras.

"Basically, they're robbed of their childhoods," US Weekly's Caroline Schaefer said. "They don't get any time to act out in a normal way. They have fame, they have money at a very young age, and that's a ton of pressure on these young kids."

Take Jaimee Foxworth of "Family Matters" fame. When she was dumped from the show, she turned to pornography at the age of 19 to support her family.

"All of the sudden her career was now, you know, from pigtails to porn," Schaeffer said.

Drew Barrymore, however, proved the childhood star maxim wrong.

Barrymore had a very troubled childhood -- including a well-publicized drug addiction.

These days, she's a top box office draw -- perhaps cast in a new role as role model for former child actors, like Bonsall, whose lives have gone way off script.

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