iStock/Thinkstock(LONGVIEW, Texas) — The news that a 34-year-old woman was able to pose as a high school sophomore left some wondering, why, outside of a sitcom plot, an adult would want to return to high school.
Charity Anne Johnson was arrested earlier this week after she allegedly posed as a 15-year-old for seven months and attended a Texas private high school.
Experts said that Johnson’s case is rare, but could signal a desire to relive her adolescent years to “erase” anything that went wrong the first time.
Dr. Lolita McDavid, medical director of child advocacy and protection at the Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, said she had only heard of people in their 20’s returning to high school.
“I think there have been other cases. But I don’t think they’ve been this old,” McDavid said. “[Maybe] a person in their 20’s, but not someone is 34.”
McDavid, who has not spoken to or treated Johnson, said there appeared to be psychological reasons why someone would want to return to her teenage years.
“She’s trying to live a life she didn’t [get to] live before — perhaps getting nurturing from a family that was meeting her needs,” said McDavid. “I think that she probably has some unmet needs that the family and school situation was creating for her. … It’s very sad that someone would want to pretend to be 15.”
At Johnson’s high school, school officials said that Johnson had been doing well socially.
Stuart Newlin, principal of New Life Christian School in Longview, Texas, told ABC News that Johnson was well-liked.
“She had friends,” he said. “Everybody liked her.”
Johnson was also living with a 30-year-old woman, Tamica Lincoln, who said she had taken on the role of caretaker after meeting Johnson at a McDonald’s.
“I allowed her to come into my house,” Lincoln said. “I was just trying to be nice and kindhearted and get her out of the situation she was in.”
Lincoln said Johnson told her that her parents had died and her sister had been thrown out of her apartment.
“There clearly was something she was getting out of it. I’m not sure if it’s out of the home [life] or something she missed in adolescence,” said McDavid. “[Or] she wanted avoid making mistakes.”
McDavid said there might be one other simple explanation for Johnson’s deception. Perhaps she just needed help and a place to say.
“I think for them it’s easier to get supportive services and general support from community if you’re a high schooler than a young adult,” said McDavid. “There’s a lot more available to you.”
Attempts to reach Johnson for comment were unsuccessful. On Sunday, Johnson remained in jail with bail posted at $500 after being charged with a failure to identify. She did not have legal representation as of Friday and it was unclear if that had changed by Sunday.
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio