Are Jon and Kate damaging their eight kids? A leading child psychiatrist thinks so. Here's why.
Dr. Michael Brody of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry thinks Jon and Kate are doing harm to their 8 kids. He tells Us Weekly: "Kids at this age shouldn't be working at all. They should be playing." He says the kids are being "exposed and exploited."
According to Dr. Brody: "It is not normal for five- and eight-year-olds to support their family."
The new Us Weekly reports that it takes five to six days of filming to create one 30-minute show. But what does this do to the kids?
Check out this exclusive interview with Dr. Brody, courtesy of Us Weekly, below:
Us: What effect do TV cameras have on a child's development?
MB: We only see what the editors decide to put in. What is it, one-hundredth, one-thousandth of the amount of filming that's done? I don't think the audience appreciates that. The cameras don't run by themselves. What, do they have 30 or 40 people there filming these kids? I would imagine something like that. When I've done TV interviews there have been two or three people. To do something like that, with all the views and so forth, I would say there's 20 people, 15 people. This is tough. Privacy, space, what you express to people. Like any family, it's a little too harsh to call it family secrets, but there are certain things that go on in the family that are not brought on outside. But in this everything is exposed. And we also have a body of evidence. We have a whole body of evidence about what's happened to people who have been subjected to this as children. Child stars have not done too well. Your magazine contributes a lot of space to former child stars. Looks what's happened to them. You can go into your archives and see. It hasn't worked out too well. But again, to me, the issue is, which people don't realize, is the amount of time this takes. There have been several very interesting books about the Nelson family. Even though this was a scripted TV show -- Ozzie Nelson, David Nelson, Ricky Nelson -- but the amount of hours those kids were working to produce that show.... Now, you can say they were working because it was scripted, they were acting and so forth, but it obviously took a tremendous toll on that family as it does on most child stars. They don't have their childhood.
Us: Do you think that the Gosselin children are living their lives as normal?
MB: How could this be normal? Number one: there are strangers in the house. People don't let strangers in the house for many good reasons, even if these strangers become familiar. The other thing is, they are constantly exposed and they are going to see this later on. I wonder how they are going to view it.... Again, we have evidence of this, of child stars who view this later on in their life about the way they were exposed and exploited. They get very, very angry. The other thing is, they are working. I don't think it's normal for five and eight year olds to be supporting their families. This family, like other families on reality TV, is working to support the brand and so forth. Aren't there all kinds of products and stuff that these people support? It's wrong. It's a commercialization of children. There should be some sort of child labor laws about this. So that's not normal. It's not normal for an eight year old or a five year old to be working to support their family. It's not normal that they should have their privacy invaded. It is not normal that they should have to only express certain things. And I think after a while the kids get the idea, and there is probably increased amount of who gets the most attention by what the kids say. All kids are interested in pleasing their parents so they are going to act to please their parents. They are helpless in this situation. If the parents want to be on television and have a reality show about the two of them....like anybody that goes on a reality show, which are filled with rejection and humiliation, that's what reality shows are all about as far as I'm concerned. We watch it to see when people really mess up. But as adults, we have that choice. If we want to expose ourselves to be on television, if that's worth it to us for our 15 minutes of fame, that's fine. These kids don't have any say in this. They are helpless. They have to do what their parents say. To me, whether it's this show, Baby Borrowers (where the parents gave teenagers babies to show what it was like), or Kid Nation (with kids in the wilderness) -- It's outrageous.
MB: I think it's wrong. It reminds me...up until the 1700 to 1800s, it was important to have a lot of children so they could work on your farm. Children were nothing more than extra workers. It was very important to have extra children so that they could work for you and so forth. With the Industrial Revolution we have kids working in factories, then fortunately there were industrial labor laws. There are reasons why kids shouldn't be working. Kids should be playing at this age. They should be exploring the world. They should be spending their time being educated. These kids are working; that's my objection. Weather it's this show or any of these other reality shows where children are involved.
Us: Are there any specific issues that they might face now or later on?
MB: One of the things that happens with adults, which happens with all of us, is a feeling of being connected, a feeling of being genuine, a feeling of being real. This isn't real. This is moving along in a direction, unfortunately, at this early age of not knowing what's real, what's genuine to them, and what is being shown on television. These reality shows are not reality shows, and here they are being filmed to do and say certain things so that they can get more attention. So in a strange way, it's fostering this non-genuineness. It's fostering a need for attention, which again has been an issue when these former child stars have been interviewed later on in life. They say that after they are 9, 10, 11 years old, they are resented, they're finished. That's who they were and they were famous and they got the best tables and so forth and so on and then they were nothing. It's very difficult. They are at a peak now and if this nonsense continues, when they are 10, 11, 12 years old they will appreciate that more. But in appreciating, they are going to continue to want it and it's not going to be there. There is a gap. The expectations when you are put in a situation like that are much higher. When you have a child who is just a regular child and is good at something, you applaud the child and that's fine. But when there are such expectations because these children are on television and they're so cute, then reality sets in, the gap between reality and the expectations is filled with depression. The most famous child stars of the last century, the Quinome quintuplets -- in the 30s before we had all these multiple birth with these pills, these were Canadian kids -- it was almost like a circus. They would bring these kids out and each one later on in life had their own tragedy -- suicide, depression, drug abuse and so forth. It's just too much too soon. It's overwhelming to a child's ego. It's one thing to be in a play or to be in a movie for a child, which is a couple of hours, maybe one or two hours a day. It's another thing when this is constant and goes over the course of years. This becomes the kids' reality.
Us: Kate has said that they are so used to having the cameras around that they don't know any different.
MB: Well, that has a consequence. Why is it that our president is so protective and his wife is so smart -- you don't see those kids anymore. The campaign is over. You don't see those kids. Why is that? Why aren't they thrusting their kids out there -- the kids are adorable, they're gorgeous. Why not? If anything goes bad, just throw out the kids.
Us: They show pictures of the President, but never of the girls playing.
MB: That's exactly right and that's the way it should be. That's sensible. They are sensible parents. They are being sensible, protective parents.
Us: Does the presence of the cameras affect the way that the kids relate to their parents or to each other?
MB: Without a doubt. Of course it does. You're at a wedding or a Bar Mitzvah and they turn the camera on you, don't you act differently? You pull in your stomach, you put out your chest, you look back, you swipe your hair. After a while these kids become knowledgeable, but it's not genuine. I think that this is where the problem lies. It's not genuine and you're fostering this craving for attention, which can create trouble later on.
Us: Do you know the story of Edith Piaf? [The famous French singer who began performing as a child in her father's street act rather than being sent to school.]
MB: There's another example. She didn't have a good ending. All our kids, our kids do enhance us, but it's gotten a little bit out of control. We are proud of our kids, but it's another thing when the kids are giving up their childhood.
Us: Let's talk about the privacy issue. One episode even showed a sign on one of the kid's doors: 'Stay out with cameras.' What does that indicate?
MB: I just think in general, even young children, certainly adults, sometimes we need some private space. Sometimes we need to be alone. One of the hard thing about a lot of kids going to college is they're in a dorm and they never faced anything like that, where there's lots of kids around and their space is invaded constantly.
Us: With so many siblings, these children don't have a lot of alone time.
MB: You don't have alone time. Kids need, for whatever reason in terms of what age they are, kids need alone time. They are not being very sensitive to this. No matter how big the house is -- no matter how big any house is -- your sense of privacy is invaded. The sad part about this is: one of the things you teach kids in terms of child abuse, especially sexual abuse, is that there are boundaries. Your body is yours. You own your body. People can't put their hands on your body because it's your body. But I don't think this is teaching kids very much about boundaries that people can just walk into their bedroom and take picture of them. There are always these stories about mythical tribes where they become enraged if someone takes a picture of them because they think they are stealing their spirit. Well there is some metaphor or parallel here in terms of they are taking away the privacy of the kid. To me it is just fostering something you don't want of the child not realizing that they have boundaries. It's an invasion of boundaries. It brings up what I was saying about the Obamas being good parents. I think after a while the kids start to get the idea...weather it's this situation or these other shows, and I feel much more comfortable talking in a generic sense about these shows, is the fact that their parents aren't protecting them. They're in this alone. You have seven siblings, two parents, and no one is protecting you. It's a terrible feeling. Who is in charge here? Are the parents in charge? Or, are the director and the editor in charge? That's another thing.
Us: Why are people attacking Jon and Kate and not the Duggars, for instance?
MB: People don't relate to them. It's like any TV show. If you can plug in to the character you're stuck with the show. Nobody is plugging in with them. This is The Learning Channel? What are we learning here? We're learning not to be good parents, not to protect our children. Our children are important. It's particularly aggravating. If people want a Real World or a Road Rules, people are an adult by the time they are that age. With little kids, little kids are like little pets, they are helpless. What do they have to say in this whole thing? It's sad.
For more, pick up the newest issue of Us Weekly, on stands today.
Do you agree with Dr. Brody? Comment below.