Effects Of Childhood Fame : Study Suggests Four Stages Teenage Stars May Go Through


I have already published articles on this site about the downside of childhood fame and about the problems that the gifted child might encounter. However, in this article I am going to outline the findings of a study undertaken by Rockwell and Giles (2009) which involved the researchers interviewing well-known celebrities (although the study does not include details of who these celebrities were in order to preserve their privacy in relation to the information they provided).

Rockwell and Giles found that, in general, people who have just become famous go through FOUR STAGES ; these are as follows :

  1. An initial ‘love / hate’ relationship with fame.
  2. An addiction to fame.
  3. Acceptance of fame.
  4. Adaptation to living with fame.

Let’s look at these four stages in turn :

1. An initial ‘love / hate’ relationship with fame :

According to Rockwell’s and Gile’s findings, this initial stage is exciting and can provide a great boost to one’s ego and self-esteem, though the undesirable side of fame also quickly becomes apparent (e.g. unwanted intrusions into one’s personal life by press and general public / fans).


2. Addiction to fame :

Addiction to fame, and the ‘buzz’ it provides, becomes addictive for many people (one individual the researchers interviewed described the addiction to fame as being more potent than addiction to any drug he or she (participants in the research study were given anonymity) had ever taken.

However, such addiction stores up potential problems for the future, as there might be an unpleasant ‘withdrawal phase’ if the person’s level of fame steeply declines. (For example, some U.K footballers seem to have replaced their addiction to fame with an addiction to alcohol once their careers have ended – such examples have already been well documented by the U.K. media. And, of course, more relevant to this specific article, many child stars, too, appear to have found the end of their acting / music etc. careers difficult to cope with if they have not managed to make the transition to a successful, adult, acting career – again, such cases have been well documented.)

3. Acceptance of fame :

The researchers propose that the third stage is acceptance of fame (both in terms of its good and bad aspects) and a realization that the ‘world of fame’ is essentially unreal (e.g. their fans don’t know the ‘real’ them and judge them only by their public image (which is, of course, often meticulously controlled by their management and PR people) and that what the public project on to them (both good and bad) in no way wholly defines them as a person.


4. Adaptation :
Finally, according to the research, the famous, having accepted they have to live with feelings such as mistrust of others motives and other negative aspects of fame, finally learn to adapt their lives to it.
Unfortunately, possible adaptations might include avoiding the general public (due to the stress of, as it were, everyone ‘wanting a piece of them‘ and generally being intrusive, demanding, and acting, even, as if they in some way ‘own’ the celebrity and have a ‘right’ to interact with him / her, irrespective of what’s going on in the celebrity’s life at the time), leading to the star becoming reclusive, and, finally, resulting in them becoming isolated and lonely (there is a well known expression that ‘it’s lonely at the top’); this is known, for example, to have happened to Elvis Presley, whose own career began when he was still a teenager.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).




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About David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

Psychologist, researcher and educationalist.

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