Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver's Children Face Trauma, Say Experts

Maria Shriver and her four children pick up pieces of Arnold's sordid affair.

May 18, 2011, 12:15 PM

May 18, 2011— -- Maria Shriver's children are trying to deal with revelations that their father, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, had a love child with a woman they knew as "Patty." She had worked in their home for nearly two decades.

Shriver and the family's housekeeper, identified by ABC News today as Mildred Patricia Baena, were apparently pregnant together, even as the woman continued to work with the three elder Schwarzenegger children.

Christopher Sargent Shriver, the youngest child of Shriver and Schwarzenegger, is 13; Baena's son is 14. Photos of the so-called "love child" have appeared online, but news outlets have obscured the boy's face.

Baena, now 50 and divorced, retired in January from her $1,200-a-week job in the Schwarzeneggers' Brentwood home with severance pay. She lives with her son and three other children in an upscale four-bedroom house in Bakersfield, Calif., outside Los Angeles.

Maria Shriver first learned the details after her husband left political office. The couple announced their separation May 6. After being questioned by the Los Angeles Times, Schwarzenegger made a statement suggesting the secret affair and his child were the cause of the separation.

The children may have only learned the truth only as the public did.

"This event is like a personal 9/11," said Dr. Alan E. Kazdin, director of Yale University's Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic. "What happens after that can really contribute to the how their emotional and behavioral adjustment turns out."

Kazdin said the children have "reasons to be upset and feel betrayed" and will need stability and support from caring adults during the months ahead.

Schwarzenegger's four children with Maria Shriver are Katherine Eunice, 21; Christina Maria Aurelia, 19; Patrick Arnold, 17; and Christopher. Two of them have vocalized their loyalty to family.

"I love my family till death do us apart," tweeted Patrick, who dropped Schwarzenegger and used his mother's name, Shriver. "Some days you feel like s*** … some days you want to quit and just be normal for a bit."

Katherine also tweeted: "This is definitely not easy but I appreciate your love and support as I begin to heal and move forward in life. I will always love my family!"

Shriver said Monday in a prepared statement that she said would be her last: "This is a painful and heartbreaking time. As a mother, my concern is for the children. I ask for compassion, respect and privacy as my children and I try to rebuild our lives and heal."

That healing will take time, especially because the children are most likely experiencing a sense of anger and "betrayal," according to Philadelphia clinical psychologist Ann Rosen Spector, who specializes in marriage and families.

"They feel for their mother and for themselves," she said. "The times when their father wasn't available to them, they wonder if it was because he was engaging in the affairs -- it wasn't just that they had to work late. The children feel cheated on too. The soccer games missed, the movie nights without the full family participation."

"And this situation, the person [Schwarzenegger] had an affair with, was somebody they knew and potentially liked," said Spector.

There have been no reports that Baena's child ever accompanied her to work in the Schwarzenegger home or that any of the children knew her son.

"There are all these conflicting emotions -- they feel for their mother, they love their father, they are angry at their father. Perhaps they feel cheated out of time their father could have given to them, and perhaps even some affection for [Baena] -- a person who they depended on their whole life. There may be some anger at her, too. They have to get past this in some way to be a family – and it will be different."

Schwarzenegger Children Have Tough Road Ahead

Spector said that it would be hard to predict how each of the four children, who span a decade in developmental age, will handle the truth of their father's affair.

"It will take a long time to sort this out," she said. "It was the same way with the [John] Edwards children. Of course, they also had to deal with the fact that their mother [Elizabeth Edwards] was dying and is now dead. Their father was the only parent in that role and they had to find forgiveness."

Democratic presidential candidate Edwards has a 3-year-old daughter, Quinn, with Rielle Hunter, a filmmaker he met on the campaign trail in 2007. The truth about his "love child" was kept secret until an investigation by the National Enquirer revealed his infidelity and the financial support he provided for mother and daughter.

His wife, Elizabeth, filed for divorce, although he was at her bedside with their children when she died in December 2010. At the time, their daughter Cate was 28, Emma Clair was 13 and Jack was 11.

The Schwarzenegger children have also lost close family members in the last year. Their grandmother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, died in August 2010, and their great uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy, died two weeks later. Their grandfather, onetime vice-presidential candidate Sargent Shriver, died in January after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.

"The Schwarzenegger-Shriver family were devoted Catholics, so they may forgive and find it within their faith to go on," said Spector. "The support system should be in place. But it's been hard for them and this family has also weathered other well-known affairs --- they have family to talk to."

But psychologist Kazdin said that having a large family -- even the Kennedys -- does not give these children immunity from profound reactions. "A large family has nothing to do with a large support system," he said. "The experience of loneliness is not the number of people in your life."

Research shows that maintaining routines and giving children a loving support system can help them cope during this kind of stress. Other adults, including close relatives, can provide continuity in their lives.

Changes in school, living arrangements, their social network of friends, can make their adjustment even more difficult. Emotional upheaval is associated with changes in the immune system that can make people vulnerable to sickness.

"Try to keep as much routine as possible and the rituals in childrearing to allay anxiety and provide stability in the family," said Kazdin. "It could be as trivial as grocery shopping on Saturday morning."

If their parents can minimize the "direct open conflict" in front of the children, they will fare better, he said.

"Given their prominence, this family could use the media to fire weapons at the other person," said Kazdin. "We have seen this in the news in other custody cases -- using the media to fuel a fire that is already there."

Schwarzenegger and Shriver should also attempt to address questions about the affair openly, "but don't go wild," advised Kazdin, who said there might be slips of anger and resentment.

"We are only human," he said, especially after a betrayal and loss of trust.

As for their newly revealed half-brother, Kazdin said the child likely wasn't close to the Schwarzenegger children.

"My expectation is that they never knew the child was related to them and the mother didn't have him there for sleepovers," he said. "Probably, they had no contact. This will pass pretty quickly and I doubt there will be an emotional bond."

But psychologist Spector disagrees.

"Christopher, now knowing that his father was expecting two children at roughly the same time, albeit under very different circumstances, might feel as if his arrival was somewhat less special than that of his older sibs," she said.

Even though they may have mixed feelings, the Schwarzenegger children must face the reality: "Up until now, he was the son of a person they knew well and presumably liked," she said. "Now, her position in their world is very different but their attachment through their father to this other son means he's a part of their lives in some respect whether they want it or not."

Can there ever be a happy ending for the family?

"Yes, it's possible," said psychologist Spector. "Human beings have a tremendous capacity to change and evolve. There are times when people really do forgive and move, but it's hard and it's rare."

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events