Maria Shriver-Arnold Schwarzenegger Scandal Exposes a Familiar Kennedy Flaw

Bad relationships can be handed down to families.

ByABC News
May 19, 2011, 4:36 PM

May 20, 2011— -- Maria Shriver, who hired a divorce lawyer after husband Arnold Schwarzenegger's admission that he fathered a child with the housekeeper, has joined at least three generations of Kennedy women who have been stung by womanizing.

A dynamic, smart professional, Shriver gave up her career as a successful television newswoman in 2003 when Schwarzenegger -- a former Austrian body builder and larger-than-life actor of "Terminator" fame -- was elected California governor.

"It's a mystery; isn't Maria Shriver a modern woman who had to assert herself in work and raise her daughters to believe that boys couldn't do this to them?" said Stanton Peele, a psychologist who has blogged about the couple's marital woes for Psychology Today.

Shriver, 55, is the granddaughter of Joseph Kennedy, the patriarch of the Irish-American political clan, who carried on affairs with Hollywood actresses, and the niece of President John F. Kennedy, who was rumored to have slept with numerous women, including actress Marilyn Monroe.

The wives were silent as long the infidelities didn't arrive on their doorsteps. "Those people keep their secrets," Peele said. "And I believe [Shriver] learned that message from her family.

"It was a family cultural characteristic that they learned to accept, starting with the grandfather," he said. "That was the family creed that was taught."

In Schwarzenegger's case, however, Shriver apparently didn't learn of his love child until several months ago and one psychologist emphasized that she is not at fault.

Psychologists and sociologists have a name for the way in which trauma and relationship patterns are passed down through families: intergenerational transmission. They point to battered wives who raise daughters who are beaten and victims of sexual abuse who go on to abuse their own children, continuing an unconscious cycle.

When the Los Angeles Times interviewed a dozen women in 2003 who said they had fought off Schwarzenegger's unwanted sexual advances between 1975 and 2000, Shriver denied that Kennedy women look the other way.

The women who had worked with Schwarzenegger said they had thought they were powerless to report the actor, who admitted he had "behaved badly."

"Well, you know, that ticks me off. ... I am my own woman," Shriver told friend Oprah Winfrey on her TV show. "I have not been, quote, 'Bred' to look the other way. I look at that man [Schwarzenegger] back there in the green room straight on, eyes wide open, and I look at him with an open heart."

This time, however, Schwarzenegger crossed the line by sleeping with the family's longtime housekeeper, Mildred Patricia Baena, during daytime romps in the couple's Brentwood home while Shriver was away, Peele said. The woman the family called "Patty" gave birth to a son, who is now 14.

"Joe Kennedy could [sleep with actress] Gloria Swanson, but he couldn't bring it home or insult or defile Rose Kennedy," he said. "You might say Arnold Schwarzenegger learned the cultural thing to do perfectly. Men do whatever they want until it's discovered in the home. Then 'boom,' it's over."

The late Sen. Ted Kennedy's wife, Joan, was perhaps the longest-suffering Kennedy wife, drowning herself in alcohol and blaming the 1969 Chappaquiddick scandal on the dissolution of their marriage. Kennedy admitted responsibility for the drowning death of Mary Jo Kopechne, 27, in a fatal car crash on Martha's Vineyard, as his wife stood at his side. She later miscarried.

Her brother-in-law, Jack Kennedy, often referred to the leggy blonde Joan as "the dish," and, like his wife, Jackie, Joan supported the family's political causes while ignoring persistent rumors of infidelities.

Listening to a videotape of her 1958 wedding to the youngest Kennedy brother, Joan heard Jack whisper to Ted that marriage "didn't mean that you had to be faithful."