Sins of Their Father: How Madoff Shame Strikes Sons

Why Andrew Madoff may have coped better with the family crisis.

ByABC News
December 14, 2010, 2:36 PM

Dec. 15, 2010— -- In the years since infamous Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff was arrested, and ultimately convicted, his sons, Mark and Andrew, who were also his employees, faced public shame and criminal investigation. The financial world they had been a part of all their lives had effectively excommunicated them.

The severity of the family's trauma reached new heights this weekend when the oldest son, Mark, took his life early Saturday morning, on the two-year anniversary of his father's arrest. Forty-six-year-old Madoff hanged himself in his New York SoHo apartment as his 2-year-old son slept soundly in the next room.

Mark Madoff "had been struggling" for years after his father's arrest and conviction, a source close to him told ABC News. "This wasn't something he thought of overnight."

The sons were executives in their father's company but claim to have known nothing about the Ponzi scheme until their father told them about it in December 2008, at which point they turned him in to the federal authorities. But both sons have been the subject of numerous lawsuits and persistent public scrutiny, as many believe they couldn't have been blind to the business dealings of their father.

Despite enduring the same loss of face and financial stability, the brothers handled the crisis in different ways. Andrew Madoff took up long-distance biking, and has been helping his fiancee, Catherine Hooper, with her consulting work. Mark Madoff, however, was distraught, believed he'd become unemployable and feared he could never rise above the scandal, sources close to the family told ABC News.

Mark Madoff was under admitted duress last year when he went missing, prompting his wife, Stephanie, to call the police. He was found in a New York hotel room registered under a different name. He told police at the time that he was going to seek help for his mental health problems.

What might explain the different reactions of these two brothers? Why has one been able to dig himself out of the disabling notoriety of his family's shame while the other remained tortured by it? Psychology experts weigh in on how the steps taken in the aftermath of trauma can help activate a person's natural resiliency and ability to recover.