Child of Rage

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Child of Rage
Genre Biography
Written by Phil Penningroth
Suzette Couture
Directed by Larry Peerce
Starring Ashley Peldon
Mel Harris
Dwight Schultz
Sam Gifaldi
Theme music composer Gerald Gouriet
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Producer(s) Connie Brescher (associate producer)
Chuck McLain (executive producer)
Charles Morales (associate producer)
David A. Shepherd (producer) (as David Shepherd)
Christy Welker (executive producer)
Editor(s) Susan B. Browdy
Cinematography Tony Imi
Running time 94 min.
Production company(s) Republic Television
Distributor CBS
Original network CBS
Original release September 29, 1992

Child of Rage is a CBS Television movie made in 1992 starring Ashley Peldon and Mel Harris. The film is based on the true story of Beth Thomas, who suffered from reactive attachment disorder as a result of being sexually abused as a child.[1][2] The film was shot in Vancouver, British Columbia, with classroom scenes being filmed at Mary Hill Elementary School.


Jill Tyler and her minister husband Rob Tyler adopt two children, Beth and John. John is a sweet and timid child, while Beth seems to come across as being the same. However, Beth soon displays outbursts of violent rage for no apparent reason, affecting her behavior and interaction with others. At first, some of her violent acts (such as killing a clutch of baby birds and attacking John while he sleeps) go unnoticed, but when it progresses to tearing her room apart and stabbing the family dog with a needle, Jill and Rob sense something is wrong. They attempt to ask Doris, the children's caseworker, about anything in Beth's past that might explain it, but Doris cites confidentiality laws and only suggests that Jill and Rob bring the children back if they're unable to handle them.

Following an equally disturbing incident where Beth engages in sexually inappropriate behavior with her adoptive grandfather, Jill and Rob take her to a psychologist, but she puts on a good show while there and convinces him that there's nothing wrong. A short time later, Jill notices fresh bruises on John, and though he's initially scared to say anything, she gets him to admit that it was Beth who inflicted them, though these are relatively minute compared to her next episode, where she repeatedly smashes John's head on the concrete basement floor, landing him in the emergency room.

At this point, Doris finally admits the truth about the children's past: after receiving a concerned phone call, she rescued the children from an abusive and neglectful home, which was one of the worst she'd seen. Although John was in bad shape, it was nothing compared to the condition Beth was found in, and no adults were present at the time (their biological mother was hospitalized with pneumonia, while their biological father was presumably off on a drunken bender).

Doris then reveals that the children have an older biological sister named Stephanie, whom she and Jill track down at a topless bar. After sitting down with them, Stephanie, a bitter young woman, has a harrowing story of her own to tell: she was sexually abused by her father as a child, and after she began fighting back, he turned his attention over to Beth (who was just a baby at the time), thus explaining the root of her violent misbehavior.

After yet another violent incident in which Beth cuts a classmate with a shard of glass, Jill and Rob pay another visit to Doris, who reveals that she had previously moved the children from foster home to foster home, hoping that something would work for them. She then gives the couple a book called Kids Who Kill, and after reading it, Jill describes it as "chilling" and feeling like it was a perfect description of Beth. It is at this point that Doris suggests a controversial treatment method for Beth: holding therapy, which is practiced by the book's author, Dr. Rosemary Myers. Rob feels as though Beth is a lost cause and suggests they just keep John, but Jill reminds him that "God gave us these children for a reason" and that they have to do whatever they can to help Beth.

After traveling to the clinic, Dr. Myers examines Beth, and though she initially tries to put on the same act that she did for the last therapist, Dr. Myers uses reverse psychology to get Beth to admit her past acts of violence. Afterward, she tells Jill and Rob that they have "a very sick little girl", and the lack of an opportunity for bonding after Beth was born left her with an inability to attach. She offers to try and help Beth, but acknowledges it can go either way.

During their first holding therapy session (which involves Jill, Rob, and Dr. Myers holding Beth down while Dr. Myers deliberately provokes her rage), things start out well, but Jill senses it's going too far. However, Dr. Myers reminds Jill that she needs to trust her, and the session resumes, ending successfully after an enraged Beth admits a desire to re-enact her past acts of violence with the three of them, giving them a glimpse of the pain underneath her rage. While the procedure normally takes place over a 6-week period, Dr. Myers realizes that Jill and Rob need to get home to John (who is in the care of Rob's parents while they're away) and believes the couple can successfully conduct the sessions at home, so she gives them permission to do so.

However, shortly before their return home, another disturbed child named Justin starts a fire at the hotel, and when Beth is inadvertently left alone in the room during the evacuation, it sets off an apparent feeling of panic in her, culminating in an incident where she tries to stab Rob with a knife concealed inside her teddy bear as he sleeps, but is caught in the nick of time.

Returning home, the couple discusses the prospect of being separated from one another to give Beth individual bonding time with each parent, and though initially uncertain, they agree it's best in order to allow her a chance to heal. As the two have another holding therapy session with Beth, a breakthrough occurs: when Beth starts to cry afterward, Jill does the same, and Beth attempts to comfort her. The film ends with Beth telling Jill and Rob that she loves them as the three tearfully embrace.


Actor Role
Mel Harris Jill Tyler
Dwight Schultz Rob Tyler
Ashley Peldon Catherine
Sam Gifaldi Eric
Rosanna DeSoto Doris Hanna
Nan Martin Barbara Tyler
Louis Dupuis Johnny
George D. Wallace Henry Tyler
Mariette Hartley Dr. Rosemary Myers
Johannah Newmarch Stephanie
Patricia Gage Laurel
Terence Kelly Mike
Kim Kondrashoff Baby Cat's Father


Prior to the film's release, a 1990 documentary entitled Child of Rage: A Story of Abuse was produced by Gaby Monet based on interviews conducted with the film's real-life inspiration, Beth Thomas. It aired on HBO as part of their America Undercover series. The film consists of interviews with Beth Thomas, followed by footage of her treatment and partial recovery at a treatment center for children.

Thomas, a former patient of psychotherapist Connell Watkins, would later - as a freshman - testify during the Candace Newmaker trial that she had benefited from treatment she had received from Watkins.[3] Thomas has since graduated from the University of Colorado with a bachelor's degree in Nursing[4][5] and became an award-winning Flagstaff Medical Center Registered Nurse.[4][6]


  1. ^ Thalman, James (August 7, 2001). "Praise, scorn in Utah for 'hold therapy'". Deseret News. Retrieved 30 April 2012. 
  2. ^ Tucker, Ken (26 September 1992). "Child of Rage Review | TV Reviews and News". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 22 August 2014. 
  3. ^ "Therapist testifies in 'rebirthing' trial". Amarillo Globe-News. 17 April 2001. Retrieved 22 August 2014. 
  4. ^ a b "FMC Special Care Nursery Nurse wins regional award". Flagstaff Medical Center. 6 October 2010. Retrieved 22 August 2014. 
  5. ^ "Nancy Thomas Parenting - Seminars". Families by Design. Retrieved 22 August 2014. 
  6. ^ Stakal, Laura (13 September 2010). "Modern-Day Florence Nightingales". Retrieved 22 August 2014. 

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