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Some weeks I will add a challenge question which “counts” as one of your discussion responses. One situation that was in the news quite a bit about a year ago was Britney Spears being released from her conservatorship, which I was interested to learn more about as it is concerning that a young person who is able to work would have their autonomy so limited.

We do not know Britney’s diagnosis (and it really does not matter if she has mental health challenges as mentally ill people still should have rights), but we can look at her case through a child development lens. In terms of child development, looking at Chapter 1 and 2, what could you say about Britney’s development? A few key points to consider:

* From when she was a baby, her mom objectified her saying she was like a doll for her to dress up.

* She was heavily scheduled in dance, singing, and gymnastics lessons as a young child.

* Her role in the family was to perform and made the family laugh, which helped to relieve tension in the family (her mom at one point had a restraining order against her husband, and by all accounts it was a tumultuous relationship). In addition, she became the primary breadwinner (at one point her family almost lost their house, but her successful album at age 16 was able to avoid foreclosure on their house). 

* Her father was an alcoholic and played little role in Britney’s life. His mother killed himself when he was a child, so he experienced trauma at a young age (and again when he was older, he was involved in a car accident where a teammate died). He has had multiple restraining orders against him. Yet, this is the person that Britney had to get permission from to see friends, do daily activities, and to approve any purchases. 

* Britney worked from the age of 8 and had very little time at home in Louisiana. Prior to her marriage to Kevin Federline, there were reports from friends of hers saying she frequently cried and said all she wanted was a “normal life” and to get married and have kids. Should kids be working full time and being the breadwinner for the family with very little time off (to socialize and/or relax and/or develop their own interests)?  

* After Britney’s marriage broke up, there were reports of her having post partum depression and mental health challenges while being hounded by paparazzi while going through a public divorce and custody battle.  

* As I’m sure some of you have heard, over the past 13 years, despite working and making over $100 million dollars, Britney was extremely restricted in her autonomy.

Britney Spears’s Conservatorship Nightmare | The New Yorker

What does restricting autonomy do to one’s mental health? For example, Britney reported not being able to drive her car, decide what to eat, or even to be allowed to have her kitchen cabinets painted a different color, but was required to work (but did not have control over the money). How does restricting autonomy limit human development? 

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