Some of Joan Crawford’s friends disputed the version of events presented in Mommie Dearest. Among them Van Johnson, Cesar Romero, Bob Hope, Barbara Stanwyck, Sydney Guilaroff, Ann Blyth, Gary Gray, and in particular Myrna Loy, Joan’s friend since 1925, became staunch defenders. While acknowledging that Joan Crawford was highly ambitious and an alcoholic for much of her life, critics have suggested that Christina embellished her story. Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Crawford’s first husband, described the book by stating, “The Joan Crawford that I’ve heard about in Mommie Dearest is not the Joan Crawford I knew back then.” The two younger Crawford children, Cindy and Cathy, born 1947, have stated categorically many times that they did not witness or experience any events as described in the book. However, their brother Christopher always staunchly defended Christina’s claims, and said “I never for one moment believed our mother loved any of us. It was all about publicity for her.”
Liz Smith said, “I was inclined to believe Joan was misguided in her attempts to “mold” her children—and was vain and self-absorbed like most great stars—but the stories of beatings and near-madness were over the top.”  Crawford’s secretary for nearly fifty years, Betty Barker, also stated that, while Joan was strict, Christina and Christopher were never abused.
However, Joan’s friends Helen Hayes, James MacArthur,June Allyson, Rex Reed, and Betty Hutton have verified some of the stories in Christina’s book and claimed they also witnessed some of the abuse firsthand. Hutton had previously lived near Crawford’s Brentwood, California, home and has stated that she saw the children during or after various moments of abuse. Hutton stated she would often encourage her own children to play with Christina and Christopher to draw them away from their challenges at home. Crawford’s Mildred Pierce co-star, actress Eve Arden, sided with Christina about Crawford’s parenting abilities, saying that Crawford suffered from bipolar disorder; a good woman in many ways but, as an alcoholic with a violent temper, simply unfit to be a mother. In the book Understanding the Borderline Mother, author Christine Ann Lawson suggests that Joan Crawford may have had Borderline personality disorder (BPD), along with an obsessive compulsion with cleanliness.