Tag Archives: Traumatic Childhood

Famous People Who Endured Traumatic Childhoods

The following celebrities all suffered significant childhood trauma :

NICKI MINAG : She was born in the Caribbean and soon afterwards her parents moved to America leaving Nicki to live with her grandmother. However, at the age of five she moved back with her parents. Her father developed an addiction to crack cocaine and was reportedly physically and emotionally abusive towards Nicki. Reputedly, Nicki particularly came to fear that her father would seriously harm, or even kill, her mother. This fear proved not to be unfounded when her father set fire to the family home with Nicki’s mother still inside it (thankfully, however, her mother escaped from the burning house physically unharmed).

OPRAH WINFREY : Oprah Winfrey’s parents split up when she was still extremely young and she was mainly brought up by her grandmother until she was six years old. It was then that her grandmother became ill so she went to live with her mother. At nine years of age she was raped by a family member and, over subsequent years, was sexually abused by a number of relatives. In an attempt to cope with her myriad traumatic experiences, she sought solace in drugs and alcohol. Her mother then found she could no longer cope with bringing up Oprah and, as a consequence, sent her to live with her father. At fourteen years of age, Oprah gave birth to a boy who, tragically, did not survive.

EMINEM : Eminen’s (born Marshall Bruce Mathers III) father left the family when he was still a baby. Following this, he and his mother frequently moved locations (living in public housing or with relatives) making it hard for Marshall to settle anywhere and necessitating his attendance at many different schools in which he was frequently bullied. Marshall’s mother was prone to paranoia and developed an addiction to prescription drugs both of which difficulties impaired her ability to properly take care of her son.

DREW BARRYMORE : Drew Barrymore achieved great fame at the age of six years old by appearing as a character in the film E.T. Her parents divorced when she was nine years old. By eleven years of age she was drinking alcohol and she soon graduated onto marijuana and cocaine. She went into rehab at the age of fourteen and soon afterwards attempted suicide which led to an 18 month stay in an institution.

JIM CAREY : Jim Carey was born into a middle-class family but, when Jim was 12 years old, his father lost his job. This led to severe financial difficulties and the whole family were forced to move into inadequate housing and take jobs in a factory. On top of having to work long, stressful and exhausting hours at the factory, Jim was also obliged to act as a carer for his mother who was suffering from a serious, long-term medical condition. Worse still, the family then became homeless, presenting them with no option other than to sleep in an old VW van. Desperate for money, Jim started to work in comedy clubs at the age of 16.

MARK WAHLBERG : Mark Wahlberg’s parents got divorced when he was just eleven years of age and he subsequently moved to and fro between the two parental homes. At thirteen years old he started taking drugs and he subsequently became addicted to cocaine. Around this age, too, he started, frequently, to get in trouble with the police and became well-known to them. At sixteen years of age he was charged with the attempted murder of a Vietnamese man and spent two years in a correctional facility.


Childhood Trauma Can Motivate Individuals To Seek Fame

I have discussed elsewhere on this site how, if we were deprived of love and proper care during our early life, and had nobody was adequately responsive to our needs, we are likely to grow up with a poor sense of our own identity and have a weak sense of self.

When we become an adult, if we have sufficient insight into this problem, we may undergo extensive therapy to address it. However, few people take this course as they do not possess such insight (not to mention the fact that, in the UK at least, such therapy would be very hard to obtain for free -i.e. on the NHS – and would, for most, therefore, be prohibitively expensive).

Instead, however, in order to compensate for their lack of personal identity/poor sense of self, they may become highly driven, sometimes to the point of obsession, to seek great success and fame (indeed, seeking such success can be highly addictive; the reason for this is that aspects of the process involved can cause significant and pleasurable electrochemical changes in the brain, and thus create feelings we are compelled to try to constantly recreate).

In this respect, one could compare it to becoming addicted to a drug – think of the ‘high’ many performers get from appearing on stage and from receiving the seemingly limitless adulation from fans. (Justin Beiber springs to mind; interestingly, his father left the family home when Justin was very young. Could a lack of a male role model, at least in part, driven him to seek his stratospheric rise to fame? Clearly, I’m not in any position to say).


Specifically, regarding how fame can lead to addictive electrochemical changes in the brain, performing on stage to thousands of worshipping and besotted fans raises the level of CORTISOL (a hormone) in the body, whilst DOPAMINE and OXYTOCIN levels are raised by being constantly and deeply adored by fans.

Great success and fame, then, give people (at least in the early days) a feeling of worth and power, compensating, in some cases, for a lack of these sensations, due to abuse and neglect, in childhood.

HOWEVER – in cases of great fame the the ‘self’ or ‘identity’ created is a PERSONA; it is superficial and is not a ‘real self’.

THEREFORE – the problem of creating a strong, REAL identity is NOT SOLVED. The famous individual is just left with a different kind of identity problem and may still be very confused as to who he ‘really is’ (especially if those he has social/financial power over constantly REINFORCE HIS FALSE PERSONA by being sycophantic ‘Yes Men’).

FURTHERMORE – because the creation of a persona does not reflect the true person, he may find that people he used to know before he was famous no longer know how to relate to him.

To read my article about the downside of fame, click here.


David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)


Childhood Trauma Recovery