It is just a fact of life today that people are willing to do crazier and crazier things to make themselves a star. After all, society has never been as obsessed with celebrities as it is today, which makes that lifestyle seem like one of the things that many people covet most. Unfortunately for them, in concept alone, there are only so many people that can become famous so the vast majority of people will never get close to that position. For some people, it seems like the next best thing is fame for their kids so they’ll push them into being child star so they can live vicariously through them. However, even if a father or mother is only allowing their kids to enter the business because their child pushes for it, there are ample reasons to be wary of such a career for their loved one. Realizing that is what inspired us to put together this list of twenty child star horror stories that should make parents fear Hollywood.
In order for a star’s story to be up for consideration for inclusion on this list, it first and foremost has to be focused on the life of a former child star. Next, it needs to be one that we think would make parents that are putting thought into allowing their kids to be a part of the entertainment industry fear Hollywood. For the purposes of this list, keep in mind that we are looking at the entirety of show business, not just the acting world. Also, keep in mind that we are looking at life stories, so these entries don’t necessarily have to pertain to a single incident. Finally, we want to make it clear that we are not looking at the darkest part of life so we’ve opted to exclude stars involved in death or abuse.
20 Demi Lovato
First really coming to prominence as a part of the Disney Channel, Demi Lovato has starred in their TV movie Camp Rock, and she brought her character from it back in a sequel and has acted in other things since. Moving on to serve as a mentor and judge on the competition show The X Factor for a season, it appears that she wasn’t destined for that role as she has moved on since. Able to become a pop princess since, today, she is best known for songs like “Heart Attack,” “Give Your Heart A Break,” “Cool For The Summer,” and “Neon Lights.” However, things haven’t always been glitz and glamour for her.
Someone who has been open about struggling with depression, an eating disorder, and self-harm in the past, she has revealed that she was bulimic at one time. While there are everyday people that go through the same struggles, we’re certain that the looks of stars get contributed to her history. In fact, the reason Demi is so low on this list is that she seems like she has beaten those serious issues.
19 Jake Lloyd
Cast in the lead role of a Star Wars film, that is the type of thing that people around the world have always dreamed of. Given the part of Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, there was one major problem for Jake Lloyd. Many fans hated it and even more so his work in the movie. Derided by millions of people as turning one of the most legendarily awesome characters of all time into a whiny kid, it is safe to say that he had to shield himself from that vitriol.
Unfortunately, you may be able to hide from the public at large but you still have to exist in the world. And for Jake, doing so felt like entering a viper’s nest. Someone who has said that his “school life was really a living hell,” he has revealed that the other kids were really mean to him and that he was bullied a lot because of his famous role. Something awful for any parent to have to watch their child go through, they must have blamed themselves for his fate.
18 Orlando Brown
An experienced part of a number of shows in the past, prior to Orlando Brown turning eighteen, he played recurring roles in series like Moesha, Family Matters, and too many more to list here. However, despite all of those, he is best known today for playing Edward “Eddie” Thomas in the show That’s So Raven. Appearing in ninety-nine episodes of the show, he was as integral to its success as anyone the series wasn’t named after.
The star of a number of family-friendly series, as an adult, his life seems like it has been anything but PG. Arrested in 2016, he was charged with domestic battery, obstruction of justice, drug possession with the intent to sell, and then he was taken downtown. Subsequently given another charge for having contraband in jail, most parents would likely be horrified if their kids had a similar rap sheet.
17 Jodie Sweetin
A unique entity in the entertainment world, Jodie Sweetin was a pretty big star at one time. But, when looking at her filmography, there isn’t a single movie listed outside of TV ones. Cast as Stephanie Tanner, she was a part of the family that served as the center-piece of the show Full House. A hit with huge ratings that aired for eight seasons, it was such a big deal that it was brought back with a Netflix spin-off called Fuller House which she stars in as well.
Things haven’t always been so great for her, however, as she spent several years between the two series that have defined her career as a drug addict. Stating publicly that she started drinking at the early age of fourteen, soon after Full House came to an end, in the following fifteen years, she struggled with substances. In fact, things were so rough for her that her custody agreement includes words saying that she has to take a drug test with twelve hours notice and must be sober to drive her child somewhere. Evidently clean for five years now, she should be proud of that. But if your child has language like that in a contract she had to sign, you know things went wrong somewhere.
16 Tracey Gold
An actress that seems like she will always be associated with a single role (in this case, that of Carol Seaver from the show Growing Pains), you may not know it but Tracey Gold has done a lot more. Seen in other series like Shirley, Roots, CHiPs, Fantasy Island, and Benson in the past, it seems clear that she was great at auditioning as a kid. Also a co-host of a show on the Game Show Network for a time, she was seen as a part of their flagship series, GSN Live.
First the focus of controversy while she starred on Growing Pains, as the series progressed, her severe weight loss became impossible to ignore. Eventually going public with her struggles with the disease anorexia nervosa, at one time, she was so small that her life was in danger and she has written that her role in that show played a part in it. The butt of jokes about her weight on the series, even when she’d dropped an unhealthy amount of weight, scripts still made reference to her being overweight which couldn’t be farther from the truth. If we were her parents, that would have enraged us. But any kid’s guardians should want their child away from an influence like that.
15 Jaimee Foxworth
Appearing in only two shows prior to landing the role that she is known for today, Jaimee Foxworth also wouldn’t get any acting roles of note after she left the show Family Matters. Cast as Judy Winslow, the youngest daughter of the family at the center of the series, her departure from the show is probably the most notable thing she did. Written to go upstairs in the midst of a random episode, she would never appear again which is pretty insane since she was a major part of the show prior to that.
We’ve touched on the fact that Jaimee really only got the one role during her acting career. But when she started going by the name Crave, she was cast in a whole ‘nother industry. Transitioning to the adult film industry for a time, that would be fine if she didn’t go on Oprah and say that she felt pushed into it by her drug addiction. If that isn’t a sad tale for any parent to contemplate, then we don’t know what is.
14 Mischa Barton
An actress that first came to a lot of people’s attention as a child when she played the creepy puking kid in The Sixth Sense, Mischa Barton would go on to be cast in the hit primetime drama The OC. Turned into a star pretty much overnight, she was at the center of a love story on that series that really grabbed the attention of the masses. Then, it got long in the tooth, and she began to act like a diva on set which led to her character being written out of the series.
Never able to rise to the same level of success she once enjoyed, it seems like her life has been one low after another ever since leaving the main spotlight. Charged with DUI and possession in 2007, she has since come clean about struggling consistently with drug-related issues. If that weren’t enough, she has also acted erratically enough on more than one occasion to forcefully be put under psychiatric confinement.
13 Dustin Diamond
One of six people that served as the nucleus of the hugely popular teen series Saved by the Bell, Dustin Diamond played Screech, the nerdiest member of their friend group. A huge-enough deal to receive multiple spin-off series, Dustin was the only one to star in both Saved by the Bell: The College Years and Saved by the Bell: The New Class as well. Since then known more for his personal life, he has appeared in a number of “reality” shows based around celebrities.
The youngest member of the main cast of Saved by the Bell, we’re not certain if that had a lot to do with his troubles but his immature ways clearly didn’t help him. Open about the fact that he feels he was taken advantage of by people that pretended to be his friend and led him down the wrong path, these days, his life is far from stellar. With a history of appearing in a fake adult film, losing his home and money, and writing a book where he admittedly lied about his cast-mates and made them hate him, no parent wants their kid to live like him.
12 Taran Noah Smith
One of three child stars that were cast in main roles in the sitcom Home Improvement, Taran Noah Smith will always be remembered by many as his character from the show, Mark Taylor. The youngest kid of the two main characters, he was written as the most sensitive of their kids and grew up in front of the world. Leaving that show in 1999, when it came to an end, he has yet to receive a role in a show or movie since that year.
Grabbing headlines when he accused his parents of squandering his money by buying themselves a mansion, his parents vehemently denied his claims saying that his cash was in a trust fund. Later stating that his parents were on the up and up and were just trying to protect him, their efforts were for naught as he would lose most of his funds anyway. Marrying a woman many years his senior at a young age, the pair of them started a business in their home which destroyed it and ate up their cash before they were divorced. Forced to sell his home which was listed as “absolutely the worst house in a prime location,” he now lives on a boat. At least he gets along with his parents now but his mom is so sad about how things turned out that she wrote a book warning parents about the sharks that ruin child stars.
11 Taylor Momsen
Cast as Cindy Lou Who in the live action version of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas that was fronted by Jim Carrey, Taylor Momsen played the next most important character in the film. Otherwise best known in the acting world since she was one of the stars of the primetime teen drama Gossip Girl for several years, as the show progressed, her personal image became more and more dark. Moving on to lead a band called The Pretty Reckless, they are best known for songs like “Heaven Know,” “Make Me Wanna Die,” and “Take Me Down.”
One of many former child stars that seem to resent their parents for their part in what they see as a dysfunctional childhood, Taylor made those feelings public at one time. Saying she “didn’t have a real life” and that she blames her pushy parents for that fact, she pinned her so-called “miserable behavior” on them. Subsequently apologizing to them publicly, it seems like she sees them in a better light than she previously stated but what parent would want their kids going through all that? I’m guessing none.
10 Edward Furlong
If you are a budding actor, there is likely nothing in this world that seems more desirable than being cast in a lead role of one of the most beloved film franchises of all time. Cast as John Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day which was his debut role, Edward Furlong lived such a dream and earned a lot of love his work in the movie. Going on to give other stellar performances in films like Brainscan, Pecker, and American History X among others, at one time, he seemed like a fantastic success story.
Clearly listed here since things went awry in his life, Edward is another example of a former child star that has had a lot of trouble with substance abuse. In fact, over the years, he has been sentenced to jail time, had to respect a protective order taken out against him by an ex, went to rehab, and took weeks of domestic violence counseling. That is far from the resume that we want our kids to have, and we’re sure we’re not the only ones.
Someone who began going after a career in entertainment from a very young age, Lalaine appeared in a Broadway production of the show Les Misérables when she was only nine years old. Made a star when she was cast as Miranda Sanchez on the Disney Channel series Lizzie McGuire, they also liked her enough to make her a regular on a series of short segments called Express Yourself. Also a singer, she worked with Radio Disney in the past and was signed to Warner Bros Records after her time on TV came to an end.
Arrested for possession of crystal meth in the year 2007, she continued to screw up when she didn’t make it to her first court date which resulted in a warrant being put out for her arrest. Ultimately able to put things right by coming to her next hearing and completing something called the Asian-American Drug Abuse Program, her record was scrubbed clean. Unfortunately, law enforcement may not remember what she did but her parents sure do.
8 Danny Bonaduce
A former child star with a rather distinctive look, Danny Bonaduce was one of the stars of the show The Partridge Family where his character, Danny Partridge, played the bass and guitar in the family band. Looking as though he may disappear after that series came to an end, he managed to create two whole new careers for himself. The most notable of which is as a radio host which is his steady gig but he has also shown up in a number of “reality” shows including Breaking Bonaduce and Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship Wrestling.
Someone who has spoken publicly about living out of his car in the past, during the darker times in his life, he was arrested for crimes like buying cocaine and robbing people. Also well-known for flying into rages, it seems abundantly clear that he doesn’t have his emotions under control. In fact, his struggles are so well-known that he is often seen as one of the best examples of former child stars that go wrong.
7 Ariel Winter
An actress that most people became aware of when she was cast in one of the main roles of the huge hit series Modern Family, despite being one of many people on the show, Ariel Winter gets a lot of attention. Also a hugely successful voice actor who has lent her voice to far too many projects to list here, it seems abundantly clear that she has made a big name for herself in that industry.
The focus of a lot of coverage because she tends to wear clothes that reveal a lot of her body, she seems very confident in herself which is something a parent could be proud of. On the other hand, it seems like Ariel’s mom can take little credit for her since her own daughter wants nothing to do with her. Emancipated from her mother after her sister had previously won guardianship of her, in court, they called their mom physically and emotionally abusive. It seems clear that it is her mother’s actions that led to all of this but as the parent of a potential star, this is the type of adult your kid will be around which is a good reason to stay away.
6 Jackie Coogan
If you are below the age of fifty, there is a very good chance that you have never heard of Jackie Coogan but he had a huge impact on Hollywood. A child star during the silent era, he is best remembered for playing the titular character in The Kid, a movie that stars comedy legend Charlie Chaplin and is arguably his most acclaimed film. Going on to further success as an adult, he also earned his place in history when he played Uncle Fester in the TV series of The Addams Family.
However, for young actors today, his most important role is probably serving as the inspiration of the so-called Jackie Coogan Act. A law that is applicable to child performers and is meant to save them from having their earnings all spent before they are old enough to take control of it, you may be able to predict what happened to him. Realizing when he came of age that his parents had bled him dry and practically all of his massive earnings were spent, his life served as a cautionary tale. As a parent, you may think to yourself that you wouldn’t do that to your kid but their accountant or agent might and then all of their work and your worry would be good for nothing.
5 Jeremy Jackson
The sole child star in a series that was not only built around adults but heavily relied on exposing much of the bodies of its stars, Jeremy Jackson must have had an interesting childhood. Consistently surrounded by some of the hottest women in the world, we’re sure that he would have shown up on set even without the paycheque. Appearing as the son of the Baywatch’s lead in the original series and two spin-offs, he was a mainstay of the franchise.
Playing the lovable Hobie Buchannon throughout much of his career, the world had no way of predicting the violence that would define his adult life. Another former child star with a documented drug problem, he even says that it led to him leaving Baywatch and continued into adulthood when he also became addicted to steroids. Even worse than all of that, however, he has been arrested on two separate occasions for stabbing people, including one incident in which the victim says he was trying to steal her boyfriend’s car.
4 Gary Coleman
One of three child stars at the center of the memorable eighties sitcom Diff’rent Strokes, all three of the kids at the center of the show would have problems as adults. Cast as Arnold Jackson, pretty much everyone thinks of Gary Coleman when the show comes up because he was an adorable kid. On top of that, it was his tagline “whatcha talkin bout Willis” that went down in history.
No longer with us today, the manner of his departure from this world has nothing to do with our choice to list him here. Instead, we’ve included him because of the way his career destroyed his relationship with his parents. Finding out that his folks frittered away his hard-earned money before he could get to it, Gary spent his adult life taking whatever work he could get because of what they did to him. Furthermore, things were so rough between the two parties that Gary had a will written up that expressly made sure that they received nothing of his after he died.
3 Brian Bonsall
Another eighties sitcom star that has landed here, this time around, we’re looking at Brian Bonsall, a late addition to the series Family Ties. Added to the show once the child stars that started out on the series had matured, it was clear that they felt like they needed to add some young blood to their cast. Also memorable for playing the son of Work in the show Star Trek: The Next Generation, that credit has ensured that he won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
Opting to transition to the music world after that, it seems like the road lifestyle did him no good based on what was to come. First arrested in 2007 after he was charged with assaulting his girlfriend, he was lucky to get just two years of probation. Then, he was arrested again in 2009 and 2010 for another violence-related issue and smoking marijuana. Fortunately, he hasn’t had a run-in with the cops in a while now but we’re sure that his parents are probably on edge still.
2 Macaulay Culkin
At one time, Macaulay Culkin was probably the biggest child star in the world and when he took on the titular role in the movie Richie Rich, his paycheque made him the highest-paid one in history at the time. Best known for playing Kevin McCallister in the first two Home Alone movies, they made millions of people look forward to his next film. Far from a one-trick pony, he has also appeared in other great movies like My Girl, The Good Son, and Saved! over the years.
The first of several Culkin family members to make an impact on the acting world, Macaulay paved a road that it seems like in the end he somewhat resented walking down. Part of a family that was broken up by divorce in the shadow of his success, to say that things became frosty between him and his dad when he sided with his mom would be a huge understatement. In fact, in 2016, his dad who’d had a debilitating stroke was quoted as saying “I don’t consider him a son anymore.”
1 Amanda Bynes
At one time someone who seemed like she had the world on lockdown, Amanda Bynes was killing it in the entertainment world. Starring in two Nickelodeon shows as a kid, All That and The Amanda Show, she also tried her hand at stand-up too. Not content with the TV world, she made the leap to movies by starring in films like Big Fat Liar, She’s the Man, Hairspray, Sydney White, and Easy A.
Then, she suddenly announced her retirement from acting which would be only the start of her odd behavior. Completely changing her look seemingly overnight, she somehow seemed to age several years in a short time. Arrested in 2012 and 2013 for things like DUI, starting a fire in a stranger’s driveway, and more, she was then put on a psychiatric hold against her will. Ultimately placed under the control of her parents because of a conservatorship, she lashed out at them and accused her dad of abusing her as a child. Ultimately recanting her claim, by then, the damage was already done. Taking all of that into account, there is no other life story we can think of that would be scarier for parents of potential child stars.