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Troubled Child

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"I'm not sure which she needs more, a hug or a bath."

The Troubled Child is an innocent-looking youngster who looks cute enough, until you notice they rarely smile, and tend to talk in a broken deadpan when they talk at all. They may inexplicably burst into tears at times. Usually the cause of their trouble is Parental Abandonment, Abusive Parents, or a congenital impairment of some sort.

This has excellent Woobie potential, but if the writers go too far, they may end up as The Scrappy for less "compassionate" viewers. Opposite of the Cheerful Child. Compare Creepy Child, and don't confuse with Bratty Half-Pint. Compare Lonely Rich Kid. See also Harmful to Minors, which frequently overlaps with this.

Oftentimes will grow up to be a Troubled Teen or Broken Bird.



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     Anime and Manga  

  • Fard from Space Runaway Ideon. Like most of the other kids, he lost his parents when the Buff Clan attacked the colony on Solo. Spends most of his time, moping, cries easily and carries a rag doll with him for most of the series. Then, he's killed off. Alongside everyone else.
  • Emile of Count Cain, due to Parental Neglect, mainly.
  • Natsume's Book of Friends is about a Troubled Child finally getting a chance to recover from past trauma he's dealt with.
  • Yuu from Noein. At the beginning of the series it's quite clear he's on the edge of a severe nervous breakdown due to the extremely controlling nature of his mother. Once his mother gets some sense talked into her and eases up, he starts to slowly improve.
  • Eri of My Hero Academia. After being horribly abused by a man who claims to be her father, she is so broken she is unable to smile.

     Film — Live-Action  

  • Newt in Aliens, due to the trauma of trying to survive the aliens' infestation of her colony, either reacts like a frightened animal or is pretty much catatonic after Ripley and the Marines find her. It's only when Ripley takes on a maternal role to her that Newt begins to come out of her shell.


  • 2666: Lotte, who spends much of her life wondering when her brother will return from World War II.
  • Both Jayni and Kenny Fenton in Lola Rose. Jayni suffers from low self-esteem and anxiety, Kenny acts more like a toddler than a six year-old sometimes, is prone to emotional outbursts and doesn't much like interacting with other kids. They both grew up with a violent father who beats their mother and is verbally abusive to Jayni, at the least, as well as having to run away and start a new life from scratch.
  • Jaehaera Targaryen in the backstory of A Song of Ice and Fire, as detailed in Archmaester Gyldayn's Histories and Fire & Blood. She was always regarded as a rather simple and frail child, though also sweet-natured. The Trauma Conga Line she went through didn't help the poor girl's mental state; a civil war broke out that saw nearly her entire family killed and she witnessed the beheading of her twin brother when she was just six years old; the assassins threatened to rape and kill her along with her brothers, unless her mother chose which of her sons would die (they killed the one she didn't choose), her other brother was killed during a riot and her mother committed suicide. At the age of eight, Jaehaera often cried with minimal provocation and still wet the bed. By the time she was ten, she seemingly took her own life by throwing herself from a castle window, in the same manner as her mother.


     Live Action TV  

  • Luka, an orphan the team was sent to rescue in "The Stork Job" in Leverage. Getting used in a scam that sends orphans to loving prospective parents to milk all their money before being forcibly dragged back to an Orphanage of Fear will do that to you.
  • Yellowjackets: When Sammy transfers to a new school, the teacher reports he has trouble making friends. His bedroom window is covered in scary drawings of angry eyes and other things so that "the lady in the tree" cannot see him. He later hits another little boy on the playground (not unusual in itself) and then tears up his doll in a disturbing fashion after Taissa takes it away temporarily as punishment.


  • Helen in The Miracle Worker is a violent child who cannot communicate and frequently puts herself and others in danger. Her parents fear being forced to put her in an asylum for "mental defectives".
  • Winthrop in The Music Man, described by his older sister Marian as "a problem child who can't understand why his father was taken away." He lisps when he talks, too.
  • Zoe in Quidam is a lonely adolescent girl who feels alienated from everyone, including her parents. Her journey into a Magical Land shows her that everyone feels this way sometimes, and how she can connect/reconnect with others.

     Tabletop RPG  

  • In the Shadowrun adventure Divided Assets, the PC's are hired to kidnap a young boy named Shawn Gaffney. After doing so, they discover that Shawn has psychological problems due to emotional neglect by his parents.

     Web Original  

  • Can You Spare a Quarter?: 12-year old Jamie breaks down crying when he is with Graham, overwhelmed by the accumulated pain from being abused at home and having to prostitute himself in the street, a pain that he has bottled up for a long time.
  • Jeannette of Funny Business at first appears, both to the other characters and to the readers, to be a Cheerful Child, but she is really this trope. Ironically, a large part of her alienation is self-inflicted, as she doesn't want to burden anybody else with her problems.
  • Thanks to abuse, The Nostalgia Critic when he was a kid. Just at kindergarten age he was drawing pictures of his parents as monsters ripping him apart.

     Western Animation  

  • Link from the Daria movie Is It Fall Yet? came out somewhere between this and a Mouthy Kid—he was clearly miserable (by his own admission) due to a difficult home life, but his attitude was less depressed and more angry as a result.
    • The titular character herself. Though more accurately a troubled teen, she had no interest in social interaction even as a child.