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Posted Tue, June 15, 2010 5:17pm EST

Bonnie Asks! Was Abby Sunderland Brainwashed By Her Parents Into Doing Her Dangerous Stunt?

Thank the Lord: Abby Sunderland, 16, is safely ensconced on a rescue ship, in the Indian Ocean, on her way to the tiny island of Reunion.

But sitting around on the Ile de Reunion, she’s already blogging excuses for her parents sending her out on her dangerous mission to be the youngest person ever to sail non-stop around the globe. “There are plenty of things people can think of to blame my situation; my age, the time of years and many more,” she wrote in her blog, Abby’s Blog. “The truth is, I was in a storm and you don’t sail through the Indian Ocean without getting in at least one storm. It wasn’t the time of year it was just a southern ocean storm. Storms are part of the deal when you set out to sail around the world.”

No doubt Abby feels guilty that her parents, Laurence and Marianne, have been taking heat for allowing and enabling her to set out on a 40 ft. sailboat alone, especially since her father told the New York Post that he had signed a contract to do a reality show based on her and her six young siblings’ adventures. Her father only backtracked on the upcoming reality show after being smacked by a storm of criticism that he had put Abby in danger in order to keep financial rewards.

I believe Abby’s trying to protect her parents by actually misrepresenting the facts. NY1 news channel’s chief meteorologist John Davitt confirmed to me, “This time of winter (in the southern hemisphere, where she was) is historically known as a time when it is not uncommon to run into big storms. She wasn’t being foolhardy but she was rolling the dice.” He pointed out that the chances of having good weather are greater in the summer. In the summer, there can be cyclones but you can see them days ahead and plot a course around them.”

Abby has also protectively defended her parents in a new interview given to the Associated Press.

“I think a lot of people are judging me by the standards they have for their teens,” she said. “They don’t understand that I’ve sailed my whole life and I do know what I’m doing out there.” She adds that “people don’t know me, and if they did wouldn’t be criticizing my age.”

Well, you know what, Abby — you are clearly an impressive and mature 16-year-old, but you still have a 16-year-old brain that is biologically immature. The brain is only about 80 percent developed in adolescents, according to Harvard Magazine. At age 16, it has been well documented that teenagers are primed to be more likely to take risks, overestimate short-term payoffs and underplay long-term consequences, according to a report by The Mentor Foundation, which promotes health and well-being among young people.

“Teenagers feel they are indestructable, they don’t weigh risks like adults,” points out family therapist, Dr. Jeffrey Gardere, host of VH1’s Dad Camp.

That means that while we do not know Abby personally, it’s highly likely that part of her self-confidence stems from her youthful belief in her own infallibility.

That’s exactly why parents are supposed to keep their daughters from taking risks which are just too great — not encourage them to leap in, after talking with a TV production company, to do a reality show.

I believe that like many children, Abby was raised, even brainwashed, into believing that she could do anything she set her mind to.

That form of parental brainwashing can be a positive force, when it takes the form of telling your daughter she can be a doctor.

It’s a negative force, however, when it’s used to convince your immature 16-year-old daughter to put herself in a sailboat alone in the middle of the Indian Ocean at the stormiest and most dangerous — yes, dangerous — time of the year.

— Bonnie Fuller

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