Psychologist: Bieber ‘Is Essentially A Toddler In An Adult Body’
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MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (CBS Tampa/AP) - Pop superstar Justin Bieber was arrested after he and R&B singer Khalil were caught racing two luxury vehicles down a residential street in Miami Beach last Thursday, according to police. Authorities say Bieber admitted that he had consumed alcohol, smoked marijuana and taken prescription medication that night.
Both now face charges of drag-racing and driving under the influence. The Grammy-nominated singer was additionally charged with resisting arrest without violence. He was released later that day on a $2,500 bond.
The incident isn’t Bieber’s only recent run-in with the law. Last Tuesday, several detectives searched his home looking for surveillance footage that might serve as evidence of his involvement in an egg-tossing vandalism case that caused thousands of dollars in damage to a neighbor’s residence.
His recent troubles, combined with other documented incidents of lewd, disrespectful behavior, have sparked public, large-scale debate as to whether or not Bieber’s star is fading.
However, despite a great deal of attention being paid to the ramifications – both real and potential – of his actions, experts in the field of psychology are discussing why he would behave in such a fashion in the first place.
And to most who have studied and practiced the science, it comes down primarily to an absence of maturity.
“What it really is, is just profound, gross immaturity. He is essentially a toddler in an adult body,” Dr. Michael Broder, a psychologist and author of a book on the matter entitled “Stage Climbing: The Shortest Path to Your Highest Potential,” told CBS Tampa. “With a toddler, if you don’t set limits, they don’t mature. They’ll act out in school. They’ll act out until someone starts setting limits on them – whether it’s teachers, or in Justin’s case, the justice system.”
Dr. Sherry Blake, a licensed clinical psychologist and the former president of the Metropolitan Atlanta Mental Health Association, agreed.
“From what I see, there is not necessarily a clinical diagnosis. I see immaturity,” she observed. “This is a young man with lots of money, lots of opportunity to do whatever he wants, and no one to say no.”
Added Blake to CBS Tampa, “It’s immaturity without structure.”
It’s a combination that has seemingly spelled trouble for other performers who rose to acclaim during their formative years, including actresses Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Bynes and singer Chris Brown - all of whom have also made headlines for their erratic, sometimes violent actions.
Laura Miller, a psychotherapist from New York, described Bieber’s behavior as the manifestation of “a number of developmental, psychological, and environmental factors converging.”
“From a developmental perspective, here we have a boy going through the natural transitional phase of becoming a man. For teenagers, this generally involves a certain amount of boundary testing with parents and other authority figures and rebellion of some sort,” she said. “With Justin, I wonder if he has found himself wielding more power than the adults around him.”
Some experts feel that the social status achieved at an early age due to a given child’s natural talents may contribute to their alternative perceptions of both the world and themselves.
“Childhood stars very often have a situation where people fawn over them, revere them. A lot of these kids have to go back and forth between being a child and being idolized,” Broder noted. “During the awkward years when most adolescents are struggling to fit in, and struggling to get peer approval … these kids are getting standing ovations all day long for doing something that they have a natural talent to do.”
He then mentioned that those who attain such prominence succumb to a certain mentality regarding the relationship between their elevated status and their immunity to society’s rules, adding “[t]hat’s the power of power.”
Blake further noted on the subject, “The difference for those [child stars] that do not get in trouble [during adulthood] is they may have been more grounded emotionally, had more structure and more people around them that had expectations. There is parenting behind the scenes.”
The role parents play in the development of their children – in particular famous children – was said to be critical to their potential to successfully transition into a stable adulthood.
“A child who finds himself with too much autonomy, even if he demanded it, may feel totally abandoned and out of control of his own power,” Miller said. “I believe child celebrities who remain stable are more likely to have stable adult figures in their lives who consistently reflect back to them who they are beyond their celebrity status, and are willing to grow as parents to grapple with the alternative childhood their children will have while maintaining whatever sense of normal structure and traditions are possible within a strange and unstable frame.”
She continued, “People often think that the most important thing a good parent does is teach a child how to behave in the world, but really this is secondary to … showing the child who he is and conveying that the person he is is worthy of love and respect.”
The principles inherent in the boundaries that are put in place by diligent parents are also invaluable to the proper development of children, experts stated.
“The child has to understand that he cannot be given privileges that other kids don’t have, particularly when it comes to breaking the law, particularly when it comes to imposing themselves on other people,” Broder said. “The message to parents is that just because the child happens to have some superb talents, does not mean that their emotional maturity follows.”
He added, “Parents need to know that they’re not doing their kids any favors when they don’t set limits.”
“When you are a childhood star and most of your energy, your time, is focused on your craft, you miss the opportunity to develop appropriate behavior through trial and error like most kids do,” Blake said. “When childhood is robbed of that, you see those behaviors later on, coming out. People may … say they are way too old for this. [T]hat’s true, but they didn’t get to do it in an age-appropriate framework.”
Other, older celebrities who weighed in on the matter were sympathetic as well, including 30-year-old rapper Macklemore. He said if he had become a mainstream musician when he was Bieber’s age, people would also see his struggles.
“I think it’s challenging for anybody to have your life be a spectacle and to be challenged and critiqued and judged. And it’s definitely hard if you’ve never had any normalcy in your adult life or in your teenage life,” said Macklemore, who has struggled with substance abuse. “I think that’s very challenging. I think if I had blown up at 22 or 23, I think you would have seen me do some (crazy stuff) in public.”
Country star Willie Nelson, who has been arrested several times for marijuana possession, also leapt to Bieber’s defense, stating that “[h]e’ll be all right. Let him grow up and then we’ll talk about him.”
Both Miller and Blake agreed that the expectations of the American populace in regards to the behaviors of child stars are extremely – even unfairly – high.
“The reality is, [Bieber] should not be a role model for young children because he is still a child himself,” Blake said. ” He’s still growing, still trying to find out who he is. They are kids, and they are going to make mistakes.”
Added Miller, “Didn’t we all already feel like we were under a microscope as teenagers? The smallest embarrassing moment could seem huge. Now imagine if instead of the whole basketball team, the entire USA knew about it.”
(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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