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Hollywood Kids

June 21, 1987|Nikki Finke

YOUR DAD'S a hotshot director. Your mom's an Oscar winner. You've got it made. Don't you?

Some Los Angeles psychiatrists and psychologists argue that the offspring of stars may instead lead star-crossed lives. "Everything has a payoff and a price tag to it," says Marilyn Ruman, an Encino clinical psychologist who has treated various celebrities and their children. Children have enough trouble coping with their parents, and vice versa, without the burden of coping with their parents' exalted status. "Celebrity children often have a problem of identity," explains Dr. Carole Lieberman, a psychiatrist and former co-chairman of public information for the Southern California Psychiatric Society. "Before they've formed their own, the identity of their parents consumes and directs their life."

This can mean that a child who wishes to enter the same field as a famous father or mother has to work even harder to follow in their footsteps. "These parents have filled very large shoes," says Marcia Lasswell, professor of psychology at Cal Poly Pomona and a faculty member at the USC Marriage and Family Training Program. "This sets a very difficult goal for the children, especially if they're determined to be as good as their parents or perform the way they think their parents want them to.

"I think those very, very successful parents don't spend as much time with their children as regular parents. They're simply too busy," Lasswell adds. "From early on, their children are taught that their needs aren't as important as the needs of their parents' profession."

Then there is the wealth--and the wealth of opportunities. The offspring of celebrities usually enjoy a luxurious standard of living. "And they get exposure to a world and to people that many kids don't," Ruman says. "For many, that's an incredible opportunity."

Agrees Lasswell, "One of the things that a famous parent can do for a kid is open doors. No matter how bright or how talented you are, sometimes having some introductions can make the difference in getting that job."

But the downside of celebrities hanging out with other celebrities in splashy settings is that it can give children "a warped view of what life is really like," says Lasswell. "They often expect their lives are going to be like that all the time. But they don't see what their parents had to do to get there."

Also, a celebrity kid may end up being used by outsiders. "His peers might want to be friendly with him because he's the child of a famous person," Lieberman says.

Just as the kids may wonder if they're being used, so they, too, can become the users. "It's a terrific temptation," says Dr. Joyce Brothers. The psychologist recalls the time her daughter wanted to use another girl's jump rope and boasted to the girl's mother: "I'm Dr. Joyce Brothers' daughter, and I want the jump rope."

Recalls the psychologist: "She got grounded."

Perhaps the heaviest weight carried by celebrity parents is that their kids are also given the star treatment--or headlines in the National Enquirer. "You're on show all the time," says Brothers. "And it can be a burden."

"It's so ironic," adds Lieberman, "that in a sense these children get a lot of attention from the press because of who their parents are. But at the same time, they get less attention from the celebrity parent who is in the limelight. So the very people they want the attention from most gives them the least."

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