ByTommy DePaoli, writer at
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Tommy DePaoli

It's no secret that fame, especially when it hits child stars, can lead to some destructive paths. The story of the troubled teen actor is so common, we almost seek it out in up-and-coming performers. In many pieces that deal with the same subject, it's equally common to see these stars get the brunt of the blame, which really only helps the trend continue.

Of course, people should be accountable for their actions, but there is also an entire culture of celebrity that fuels this behavior. Who's giving these kids access to drugs, alcohol, and the other vices that lead to ruin before they can even drive? It's almost like everyone around them is the equivalent of a Cool Mom from Mean Girls.

Here are seven different former child stars who have faced the "cool moms" of fame and came out on the other side.

1. Amanda Bynes

In Amanda's case, I don't know if fame caused her downfall as much as it protected her from the ramifications so-called "normal" people would face. Things were going so well for her following her shift to more adult comedic roles—seriously, who doesn't love She's the Man?—but her career took a turn when she started exhibiting out of character behavior.

Starting in 2010, she's gone back and forth about retiring from acting, but she's never really stayed out of the spotlight. Between dropping bongs out of apartment windows and getting put on a mental-health evaluation hold, Amanda has been worrying her family and her fans. These days, Bynes is enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, and she wants to be a fashion designer and a rapper. It's safe to say that we haven't heard the last of Amanda, and I'm really hopeful that she's as happy as her Twitter suggests.

2. Brian Bonsall

Brian Bonsall played the littlest kid on Family Ties from 1986-89, and pretty much the entire country ate him up. That universal love didn't last forever, however, and after a stint as a child actor (you may recognize him as Alexander Rozhenko from Star Trek: The Next Generation or as the main character in Blank Check), he retired from acting.

In 2001, he was arrested for DUI, resulting in the suspension of his license. Three years later, he was back behind bars for the assault of his then-girlfriend. Numerous other legal battles followed, with charges that ranged from possession to assault. In 2009, he got probation for third degree assault when he beat his best friend in the head with a wooden stool. He seems to be doing better in recent years, and he's working as a singer/songwriter in Denver.

3. Lindsay Lohan

Remember the days when Lindsay proclaimed that she hoped to win an Oscar before she turned 30? It seemed possible back when she was a rising star in great movies like Mean Girls, but these days, Lindsay is lucky to get cast in any project at all, let alone a major buzzworthy film. Her well-documented run as teen queen came to a grinding halt when she began to put partying before work (a fact which became abundantly clear after a production company CEO wrote a public letter telling her to knock it off).

Partying led to arrests for driving under the influence and numerous violations of her probation. The arrests led to multiple rehab stints, but it's unclear if any have really stuck. It's pretty amazing how many people (myself included) still want to see a comeback, but nowadays Lindsay maintains her status with tabloid headlines and magazine photo spreads.

4. Taran Noah Smith

Taran Noah Smith played youngest brother Mark Taylor in the Tim Allen-led sitcom Home Improvement, and when the show ended, he didn't have much of a plan:

"I started Home Improvement when I was 7, and the show ended when I was 16. I never had the chance to decide what I wanted to do with my life. When I was 16, I knew that I didn't want to act anymore."

When he was 18 years old, he sued his parent for control of his trust fund, which they were allegedly using for luxuries like their new mansion home. In 2012, he was arrested for a DUI and possession of hash, which left him with three years' probation and a drug counseling program. I've gotta give it up to Taran, though, because he's left the limelight, opened up his own company of vegan cheese, and, on the whole, seems like he's well-adjusted following his one crime.

5. Mackenzie Phillips

In the 1960s, Mackenzie Phillips was a child star who appeared in George Lucas' American Graffiti and the TV show One Day at a Time. My generation would more likely know her as the touring rock star mom in Disney Channel's So Weird. Life for Mackenzie was never as easy as it appeared on TV, however, as she spent years struggling with cocaine and heroin addiction that led to arrests and rehab stints.

In 2009, Mackenzie revealed an even more chilling part of her life. In her memoir, she claims that her father, musician John Phillips, bolstered the drug addiction by injecting her with cocaine when she was very young. In another troubling passage, she says that her father began a sexual relationship with her, which went on for 10 years. Because her father was also a famous performer, most of her family (and many fans) have refused to believe Mackenzie, leading her to lose contact with them.

6. Jodie Sweetin

Known for her precocious turn as Full House's resident middle child Stephanie Tanner, Jodie Sweetin had a squeaky clean image and not much else after the show wrapped in 1995. Jodie says she was bored, and that's what led her 14-year-old self to turn to drugs and alcohol. She was so drunk at Candace Cameron's wedding that she needed to be carried out. She eventually turned to ecstasy, cocaine, and other hard drugs, even snorting meth in the bathroom stall at the premiere of the Olsen twins' movie New York Minute.

In her memoir UnSweetined, Sweetin goes into detail about all of these instances, but she also talks about getting sober in 2008 for the sake of her two children. She talks about how growing up on television gave her unparalleled access to this dangerous lifestyle, but she also discusses how much life has improved since getting sober. It's great to see her not only taking charge of her life but also speak out about her experiences (which are clearly not uncommon) for other people to understand.

7. Britney Spears

The media circus and the general public did Britney so dirty back in 2007 that her meltdown really caused a turning point in celebrity culture. It became fully clear that after a lifetime of being handled, objectified, and even exploited, Britney had had enough. She reached her breaking point, and ever since then has been regaining her independence and spirit.

Still, however, you can see the residual damage and anxiety that a childhood of fame begot. Look no further than this performance, when an overzealous fan approached the stage, leaving a panicked Britney to visibly shake.

Maybe it's a stretch to see the correlation between the two events, but, as a longtime Britney fan, I hate seeing the fearful to destructive effect that a life in the spotlight can bring.

Let this list be a testament to all potential stage moms and dads that fame may come with a lot of glitz and glamour, but, like everything else in this world, that comes at a price. Most of these individuals were able to get past their celeb-related demons, but not everyone is so lucky.


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