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year, I semester Paper Topic: Development of working child: focusing on child actors
A ‘Child’ according to oxford advanced learner’s dictionary is “a young human being who is not yet an adult”. The dictionary also defines child as “a person who is strongly influenced by ideas and attitudes of a particular time or a person”. This vulnerable time period comes in every human being’s life. Child development is a very important aspect for human rights of a child. This paper will try to look at child rights from the eyes of child development, stress, and abnormal behavior where the research subjects are famous child actors. This paper has cited information from news websitesmany of which survive on celebrities going astray with their life. Method and Material: Many of the material used in this paper is the book “Psychology” written by Robert .A. Baron. This book contains information on child development by the eyes of psychology. Also used are Human Rights treaties of United Nations (UN), and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) for reference of laws, rules, and conventions. Numerous examples from news websites about developing child, stress for child actor is also included to help support the child development part. Research Question: Is Creating Child Actors greatly harmful for the development of a child into an adult? Beginning with the common knowledge that a working child is a “Child Labor”, the paper tries to show the
evils that an acting-working child hampers his own development. Child development is equally a human rights issue as it is a psychological issue. The citations used in the paper are very much related to child development. Making a child an actor will introduce the child into a world of adults where the adult suffers with stress of going to work, getting paid for the work, and having odd hours to work on.
Introduction of Child: It is the years between birth and development, (Baron, 286), the convention on the rights of child, however calls a child “every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier”. Most countries do not provide citizenship cards to their citizens unless they are 18 years old. In case of South Asian Countries, according to the SAARC convention on Regional Arrangements for the Promotion of Child Welfare in South Asia, 2002, “‘Child’ shall mean a national of any Member State of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), below the age of eighteen years unless, under the national law, majority is attained earlier.” Until they are 18, the children are the responsibilities of their parents, or legal guardians (Article 18, Convention on the Rights of child, 1989). According to this SAARC convention, parents are obliged to develop child’s personality, talent, mental and physical abilities. Parents are the legal guardians; they have the primary responsibility for the upbringing and development of the child. Since family is the fundamental unit of the society and also the nurturing environment for the growth and well-being of children, necessary protection and assistance should be afforded by the family. Childhood is also entitled to “special care” by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Working child: Special care here includes basic services like education, health care, with special attention to the prevention of diseases and malnutrition, as the cornerstone of child survival and development, policy of development, and a national program of action that facilitates the development of the
child (Article IV- 2, SAARC Convention on regional Arrangements for the Promotion of Child Welfare in South Asia, 2002). Special care is looked after by the state parties. They ensure that hazardous and harmful labor also known as the “evils” of child labor is abolished (Article IV- 3, SAARC Convention on regional Arrangements for the Promotion of Child Welfare in South Asia, 2002). In this regard, state parties are the ones who recognize the right of child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development. In addition to this, state parties should provide minimum ages for admission of employment and also appropriate regulation of the hours and conditions of employment (Article 32, 1, 2(a) (b) Convention on the Rights of child, 1989). Is a working Child a child labor? Child labor is not completely abolished. Examples of children working in quarries, factories, coal mines can be found in Nepal. To qualify to be a labor, a child has to be employed that is the child is paid for the work. Also considered are the work hours, the kind of work and parent’s consent. When Children work in a field with their parents; or help around the house doing some minimal chores like washing dishes and washing his or her own garments, they are not laboring. But a child working in a coal mine in Dang, with very strange working environment is laboring (Prabin Gautam, South Asian Children’s Fund). What about child performers then? Child performers are under 18 years of age. Child performers or actors in the media work for the concerned media be it movies, advertising, television series, or even dance programs. Though they are known as artists, the fact cannot be overlooked that they are working. They are paid for their work and they have working hours sometimes very late. Child Actors: The term child actor is generally applied to a child acting in motion pictures or television, but also to an adult who began his or her acting career as a child; to avoid confusion the latter is also called a former child actor.(http://en.wikipedia.com/child_actor)
Programs and movies that have all the members of the family as target groups usually have children acting in them. Be it Disney’s family movies or sitcoms which air before the child audience goes to bed. Hollywood and Bollywood (Indian Film industry), may have used child actors. With their movie making expenditure in millions of dollars, and a wide range in audience, these industries may be at the front exploiting the child for their benefit and calling it art.
Parents’ consent on child development: Child performers cannot perform without the consent of their parents. Parents are given full control to the amount of money provided to the child until they are 18. But recently, Coogan Law makes Employers of child performers will be required under a new law to set up trust funds and place 15 percent of the children's annual incomes in individual accounts. This law is modeled after a California law named for the child actor Jackie Coogan whose parents spent much of his $4 million fortune in the 1920's and 30's before he turned 18. The trust funds are to be turned over to the children at age 18. The law also requires theatrical employers to pay for tutors for young stars who do not regularly attend school (Albin, New Law for Child Performers, http://query.nytimes.com) Parents hold the key in letting their child enter the show business. They are decision makers in the development of the child. There are numerous examples of former child actors claiming “abusive childhood”. "There's no possibility of a family not being deeply affected by the kind of celebrity we have today," said Jeanine Basinger, chairwoman of the film studies department at Wesleyan University, who is working on a book about movie stardom. The more famous and powerful the child is, the more potential there is for a distortion of family life and for difficulties trying to work out family problems, those who know the industry say. (Navarro, Star kids and family stress, http://nytimes.com)
Families have been vulnerable to childhood fame since the earliest years of moviemaking. Diana Serra Cary, a child movie actress who became famous as "Baby Peggy" in the 1920's and has since become a chronicler of Hollywood through several books, including "Hollywood's Children: An Inside Account of the Child Star Era," said she could often hear her parents fighting over her and her money. She said her mother worried constantly about how her father, a horseman and rancher who worked as a stuntman in westerns and became his daughter's manager, was spending the hundreds of thousands of dollars coming in from Baby Peggy's work. (Navarro, Star kids and family stress, http://nytimes.com) Gary Coleman from the cast of “Different Strokes” was adopted. He started his acting career when he was 8 years old. The show ran for 5 seasons and he grew up on the show. Complexities surrounded him after that. He could never shake his early '80s fame, becoming train-wreck curios through the '90s and onward. Coleman successfully sued his parents and was sued himself, showing up in the court of Judge Mills Lane, where he was ordered to pay an autograph seeker $1,665 for hospital bills suffered after a fight (Morgan, When Young Stars Burn Out, http://movies.msn.com). Claiming an abusive childhood led to his downward spiral, Corey Feldman was legally emancipated from his parents by age 15, went party wild and was arrested in 1990 for heroin possession (Morgan, When Young Stars Burn Out, http://movies.msn.com). Typically, according to former child actors and professionals involved in children's careers, family roles begin to fray once the actor's work starts to determine where the family lives, or whether one of the parents gives up a job. Parents may struggle emotionally with being outearned and upstaged by a child not old enough to drive; children, for their part, have to contend with being the family's meal ticket. (Navarro, Star kids and family stress, http://nytimes.com) There will be considerable changes in the cognitive, physical, and social relationship in childhood (Baron, 286). As Oxford advanced learner’s dictionary has defined child as “a person who is easily influenced by ideas and attitudes of a particular time”, in other words, they are a support group, supported by the parents or guardians. They need the support of their parents to
develop into an individual. To give this special care to them as individuals, they are also called minorities. James W. Nickel, the author of ‘Making sense of Human Rights’ says, “Children are odd minority”. They are found in all counties, cultures, religions, and income categories. But they do have some distinctive problems and vulnerabilities that the Conventions of Rights of the Child (like articles 5 and articles 27.2) attempts to address (Nickel, 160). Articles 27.2 of this convention talks about the role of parents, “Parent(s) or others are responsible for the child have the primary responsibility to secure, within their abilities and financial capacities, the conditions of living necessary for the child’s development” (Article 27.2, Convention of Rights of Child, 1989). The convention also gives some framework for letting parents do their job by setting the area for state parties. On child’s health, the state parties, are obliged to pursue full implementation of the health right should take appropriate measures to ensure that all segments of society, in particular parents and children, are informed, have access to education and are supported in the use of basic knowledge of child health and nutrition, the advantages of breastfeeding, hygiene and environmental sanitation and the prevention of accidents (Convention on the Rights of Child, 1989). Child development and stress of a working child: Child’s development begins from a little fetus. There are many diseases that can be transmitted from the parents to the child for example, rubella, German measles, chicken pox, mumps, tuberculosis, malaria, syphilis, herpes, and even AIDS. When newborns contract this disease, they may suffer many harmful effects, ranging from paralysis and brain damage through deafness and blindness; the disease is fatal for many babies (Baron, 288). After the child is born, the development is gradual and they learn from an environment set up by the parents. At about the age of 12, most children enter the final stages of cognitive development- called formal operations. During this period, major features of adult thought make their appearance. While children in the earlier stage of concrete operations or the stage that children become permanence objects, they can do so only about concrete objects. In contrast, those who have reached the stage of formal operations can think abstractly; they can deal not
only with the real or concrete but with possibilities- events or relationships that do not exist, but can be imagined (Baron, 301). This is a normal process. But adding the clause “fame”, the feeling of “had been there done that” into the picture can be dangerous. Former child actor Paul Petersen once said, "Fame is a dangerous drug and should be kept out of the reach of children." (Goldrup, back cover) By 13, Drew Barrymore, a former child actress herself, famed for her performance in big budget movies like E.T, had already entered rehab. As she says in her autobiography: "I had my first drink at age 9, began smoking marijuana at 10, and at 12 took up cocaine" (Morgan, When Young Stars Burn Out, http://movies.msn.com). Barrymore rehabilitated herself. But many others are not so lucky, for example, actress Judy Garland, from the first color adaptation of the book ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is also a victim of this. Though never at a loss for talent, Garland was afflicted by a barbiturate (drugs that act as depressants, reducing activity in the nervous system and behavior output) addiction, allegedly beginning while a child star at the studio. She was suffering from erratic behavior, reported suicide attempts and heavy drinking. In 1969, just 12 days after her 47th birthday, she was found dead in London from an overdose of barbiturates (Morgan, When Young Stars Burn Out, http://movies.msn.com). Anissa Jones or Buffy from late '60s/early '70s TV show "Family Affair" died in 1976 of a drug overdose. The product of divorced parents and some deep-seated personal and substance issues, Jones died at age 18 at a friend's house in Oceanside, Calif. In her own morbid way, Jones laid the downward path for the other child stars that followed, particularly child television stars. (Morgan, when Young Stars Burn Out http://movies.msn.com) The child actor may experience unique and negative pressures when working under tight production schedules. Large projects which depend for their success on the ability of the child to deliver an effective performance add to the pressure. The children use the formal operations model of thought, to construct sweeping theories about human relationships, ethics, or political systems. This can be very harmful for child actors who experience work related stress at an early age, are as examples show.
Most adults spend more time at work than in any other single activity. It is not surprising, then, that jobs or careers are a central source of stress. Some of the factors producing stress in work setting are obvious, for example being asked to do too much in too short a time. Interestingly, being asked to do too little can also cause stress (Baron, 499). Any work related environment consists of stress. Children working in big budget movies may as well have stress levels above the charts. Some authorities estimates that stress plays some role in 50-70% of all physical illness (Baron, 500), in adults. When individuals experience stressful life events, their health often deteriorates. Holmes and Masuda in 1974, studied stress and its harmful effects, they have listed out life’s events and the stress they cause. At number 1 is death of a spouse. While, In their list, at number 8, Getting Fired at work; at number 16, Change in financial state; at number 18, Change to different line of work; at number 22, Change in responsibilities at work; at number 27 Beginning or ending school; at number 30, trouble with boss; at number 31 change in hours or conditions; and at number 33, change in schools (Baron, 498). Stress may be a part of daily life. But when children become adults, and make money for their family, their stress levels rise. Except number 1, the death of a spouse, all the other stress causes are very real to child actors. From getting fired at work because of bad performance which may result to change in financial state which may occur because of change to a different line of work where previously the child may be getting paid in 7or 8 figures by television series or big budget movies, and the child sees the figures droop to 3 to 4 figures. Schools- the basics of development: Many children forgo stress in the playground. It is the right of child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and arts (Article 31, Convention on the Rights of Child, 1989). Studies have reported that while coping with stress, females tend to seek social support from friends or to engage in emotion-focused strategies (Baron, 502). Same can be said for children who would find it much better to cope with stress with friends and in schools.
Child actors miss schools more than normal students. Although Compulsory education laws mandate that the education of child actor is not disrupted while the child is working. The child may do schoolwork under the supervision of a set teacher while on the set. In school, children do not merely acquire new information that contributes to their cognitive growth; they also have the opportunity to acquire, and practice, many social skills. They learn to share, to cooperate, and to work together in groups to solve problems. And, perhaps most important of all, they acquire growing experience in forming and maintaining friendshipsrelationships involving strong affective (emotional) ties between two persons (Baron, 317). Child actors working in television series do not suffer from this more than children working in movies. These children have to cope with working outside of home, they miss school. Sunny Bupp- child actor from the classic film ‘Citizen Cane’ says, "You’re in school and out of school, in school and out of school. There was never any continuity"(Goldrup, 43). Many huge corporations though have on set tutors. On set tutors cannot be “peers” with the working child. Delmar Watson from television series ‘Our gang’ says, “The bad thing about working in pictures was that you could never have any after-school activities. You would get out of school at three o'clock and you always had to come right home because you might have to go out on an interview. You never knew when the studio was going to call. They knew you were in school so they would set interviews for four or four thirty in the afternoon. Therefore, you couldn't have after school baseball or football”. (Goldrup, 113). Friendships Friendships also contribute to emotional development, by giving children opportunities to experience intense emotional bonds with persons other than the caregivers and to express these feelings in their behavior (Baron, 317). In sum, through a wide range of experiences in schooland especially through the formation of friendships- children expand their social and emotional skills and acquire the skills needed for forming close and lasting relationships with others (Baron, 319).
Though there have been laws and conventions where the child’s welfare is protected, these groups of children who appear almost every-day in living rooms and cinema theatres are always the minorities. Their rights have been overshadowed by the large amounts of money. Maybe that is how it is in the The Screen Actors Guild, which has about 5,200 members between the ages of 7 and 17, also has a young performers' committee to address the concerns of young actors. Also active are Minor Consideration, which has dealt with issues of young performers in acting, music and sports since the early 1990's, and more recently, ‘Biz Parentz’, which formed to teach families about the entertainment business. (Navarro, Star Kids, Family Stress, http://nytimes.com ) Family may be the only entity that can save their children from the price of fame and developing a child. Parents care about their child more than any other people. Lisa Rapport in her research ‘The Relationships between Professional Experience, Parenting History, and Adult Adjustment’ from Wayne State University concluded that, “The environment of the entertainment industry is not necessarily toxic to normal development. Instead, the results support the well-established theory that good parenting serves as a buffer for life stress.”( http://en.wikipedia.com/child_actor)
Works cited page:
1. Baron. Robert A, Psychology, Dorling Kindersley(India), 2007 2. Nickel. James W, Making Sense of Human Rights, Blackwell Publishing (United
3. Convention on the Rights of child, 1989 4. SAARC Convention on Regional Arrangements for the Promotion of Child Welfare in
South Asia, http://www.saarc-sec.org also from: Sharma, Gopal, International Institutions, Human Rights and Humanitarian law, Pairabi Prakashan (Kathmandu), 2006.
5. Personal interview: Prabin Gautam, South Asian Children’s Fund 6. Morgan. Kim, When Young Stars Burn Out, MSN news http://movies.msn.com/ 7. Navarro. Mireya, Star Kids, Family Stress, The New York Times, 2005
8. Wikipedia, Child Actors, http://en.wikipedia.com/child_actor (June 24, 2008)
9. Oxford advanced learner’s dictionary, Oxford University Press (United Kingdom), 2004
10. Albin. Stacy, New law for Child Performers, 2003 http://query.nytimes.com/,
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