A very famous family gather around a hospital bed. They've been here before.

A famous family is gathered around a hospital bed. They’ve been here before.

A famous young woman is found by her husband, floating face down in a bathtub. The famous mother of two tiny boys found dead of a massive overdose, her toddler son still crawling around a luxurious home alone.

Tragic: Whitney Houston’s daughter found unconscious in her home.

These are two tragedies that echo, with almost eerie accuracy, the deaths of women a generation before – their mothers.

As your read this, it’s been nine months since the death of Peaches Geldof and 21-year-old Bobbi Kristina Brown, Whitney Houston’s troubled daughter, is in a medically-induced coma, her family gathered around her.

21-year-old Bobbi Kristina. Image via Instagram.

Bobbi Kristina is not dead, but news outlets the world over (yes, including this one) are grimly preparing obituaries for a young woman who loved to sing, who posted copious selfies on social media, who loved her young husband  and who struggled with her tumultuous family.

And at time of writing, the details of the incident that brought Bobbi to the Emergency room have not been made public. Tabloids are scrapping about whether drugs – which Bobbi has admitted to using in the past – are involved, but the fact that she has had a difficult time in the last three years is hardly in question.

From the outside, it seems like the children of the rich and famous should have it easy. They have lifestyles most of us – plugging away at our “ordinary” lives – use as fuel for fantasy, with connections and resources available to them that are well out of reach for most young people.

Bobbi Kristina idolised her mother. (NB: Post continues after gallery):


It is also tempting to imagine that for these young women, a chaotic childhood – culminating in losing the person they love most in the world – would be the most effective cautionary tale you could imagine.

Certainly Bobbi’s mother hoped so.

According to her grandmother, Cissi Houston, Bobbi first travelled with to rehab with Whitney in 2o05,

“I think Nippy [the family’s nickname for Whitney Houston] wanted her to understand what she was struggling with,” Cissi wrote in her biography. “She wanted to explain it to her, maybe so Krissi wouldn’t wander down the same path herself when her time came.”

But the odds were stacked against Bobbi Kristina.

Photographs of the young woman apparently taking drugs were circulating on social media even before her mother’s death. In the years since, rumours of drug abuse and photos have only resurfaced. She appeared on a reality TV show drinking alcohol and visibly stumbling and struggling to remain coherent. She was warring, on and off, with her father, with her grandmother, with her aunties.

Peaches Geldof  fought similar battles, with an horrific outcome, dead of a heroin overdose 14 years after her mother, Paula Yates, died the same way. In the hours before her death, Peaches had posted a picture of her mum on social media, a full-stop of sorts, a marker of a tragic common bond .

Peaches Geldof.

The children of parents who suffer from addiction are eight times more likely that those whose parents do not, to have their own issues with drugs and alcohol.

The reasons are a combination of genetics, of exposure to the presence of drugs and alcohol, and of an increased likelihood of suffering the kind of trauma that might make someone turn to drugs and alcohol in the first place.


Julie Rae from the Australian Drug Foundation tells Mamamia that: “We do know from evidence that the more that young people are exposed to alcohol and other drugs and the way they are treated by the adults in their lives can lead to a higher use. And we know that the earlier that young people start using alcohol and other drugs the higher the likelihood that they will have issues with those drugs.”

We all inherit the best and the worst of our parents. Even with the best will in the world – their actions, their choices, their weaknesses, affect everything about us.

It’s been 9-months since the tragic death of Peaches Geldof (Post continues after gallery):

And from there, if we’re lucky, we stitch together our own fortunes. The tales of ‘poor little rich girls like’ Bobbi and Peaches appeal because we dream that if we were dealt that hand  – those homes, that status, that ability to pay for the help we might need to unpick our messier traits – we would be fine, we would do it better.

More on Peaches: Dear World. Peaches Geldof’s death is not about you.

But all too often, just like the rest of us, the Poor Little Rich Girls show their feet of clay. Perhaps what Christina and Peaches had – money, status, was not as important as what they didn’t – someone to tell them they were wonderful.

“What we know is that people who have a greater self worth, people who are engaged in community, who have significant adults in their lives who think they’re awesome, that feel that they have a worthwhile cause and are gainfully employed, all have a better chance of not having issues with alcohol and other drugs,” says Julie Rae.

“It could take one person to make a difference in a person’s life… They can have come from abusive relationships with their parents but if one individual thinks your awesome and you’re 16 it can make a huge difference in your life.”

Peaches with her mother Paula Yates.

Mamamia’s Rosie Waterland, who hasn’t shied away from writing and talking about her own troubled upbringing, thinks that shaking your family history off your feet is a matter of serious hard work – and some luck.

“Growing up in a home affected by mental health issues and addiction is going to produce trauma that makes you more likely to feel you need to turn to alcohol or drugs,” says Rosie.

“But you can’t control the family that you are born into, or the genetics your parents pass on, but you can control what you do with them. I have worked really hard, really hard to learn to deal with the trauma of my childhood”.

“It’s really hard to go to therapy and to do the work. But it’s harder not to. ”

The famous family gathered around one young woman’s bed will be hoping – along with the rest of the world – that Bobbi Kristina gets a chance to try.

    00:00 / ???