Kids With Coaches for Parents: Troubled or Unfairly Scrutinized?

Do children of coaches act out because of unfair pressures?

ByABC News
August 6, 2012, 4:37 PM

Aug. 7, 2012— -- Philadelphia Eagles' coach Andy Reid released a statement Monday evening addressing the role that drugs might have played in his son's death.

"Garret's road through life was not always an easy one. He faced tremendous personal challenges with bravery and spirit. As a family we stood by him and were inspired as he worked to overcome those challenges. Even though he lost the battle that has been ongoing for the last eight years, we will always remember him as a fighter who had a huge, loving heart."

From University of Alabama coach Nick Saban's daughter's pending assault lawsuit to the suicide of the son of then Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy to the arrest of the son of Jacksonville Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey for cocaine possession, children of coaches have come under increasing public scrutiny for problematic behavior.

Now, the death of Garrett Reid, 29, the son of Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid, who was found unresponsive in a Leigh University dorm room on Sunday, may highlight a growing problem among the children of coaches who devote long, long hours to their careers, perhaps at the expense of their families' well-being.

Former University of Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino's son, Dominic, was arrested in Indiana for drunken driving, marijuana possession, illegal possession of prescription drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia in June 2011. James Ferentz, son of University of Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz, was arrested for public intoxication -- his second alcohol-related offense -- in April 2009.

The son of Green Bay Packers' offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, drowned in a frozen river in Oshkosh, Wis., in January. While 21-year-old Michael Philbin's death was ruled an accident, the autopsy report revealed that his blood alcohol level was .176, well over legal limits.

While Reid's cause of death is still unknown, both he and his younger brother, Britt, struggled with drug abuse in the past. Reid has admitted to using heroin, and was caught attempting to smuggle prescription pills into jail during his incarceration.

But is it fair to attribute the problems that the progeny of public figures face, including drug possession, public drunkenness, or driving while intoxicated, to the pressures they feel as a result of their parents' professions?

"From a psychological standpoint, I think any child of a celebrity, maybe even more so in sports ... grows up with a sense that they are special, that they come from a special family," said Stanley Teitelbaum, a clinical psychologist and author of "Athletes Who Indulge Their Dark Side."

"I think that sometimes it may translate into feeling a pressure into being kind of a model kid or to perform in a very special way," he said.

Teitelbaum said that it's "a tough act to follow" in the footsteps of a famous father who dedicates the majority of time to his job. As a result, many may try to cross the line to call attention to themselves, which may include abusing drugs or alcohol.

"When you grow up in a family where the dad is not all that available, it becomes that much more powerful of a plea," he said.

Sports psychologist Richard Lustberg said that addictive personalities may contribute to behaviors that manifest from father to child, even if the addiction stems from something like football.

"Anytime you do have an obsessive quality about you ... that contributes to a personality that may get modeled and passed down," he said.

"We know that the children of affluent parents have higher rates of depression, anxiety disorder and substance abuse," said Madeline Levine, author of "Teach Your Children Well." "The research says that these kids feel particularly pressured to perform."

Levine said that children of well-known or well-off parents struggle with their own identities, because "they are sort of identified as an appendage to a famous parent."

"I think that it can be incredibly lonely and difficult for those kids because nobody is particularly sympathetic," she said. "Instead people say, 'Cry me a river, your father's famous.'"

Teitelbaum said that with a coach as a father, some kids look at getting in trouble with the law as a way to accomplish two things -- getting dad's attention and getting bailed out.