Large American families are a popular focus of reality TV. "Jon & Kate Plus 8," a show about a couple with eight children, is one of the most watched reality TV shows in America. Viewers observe parents juggling between raising many kids and keeping their relationship alive. The families become, overnight, celebrities. But can these families survive the pressure?
Stress, bickering and public scrutiny have brought Jon and Kate, the parents of eight children, to the brink of divorce.
The couple had twins nine years ago and sextuplets five years ago. They have led their life in front of cameras for the reality TV show "Jon & Kate Plus 8." Now, their life together is unraveling and the question is: Can non-stop TV exposure undermine a family's stability?
Dorree Lynn, a family therapist in Washington DC, says this is difficult especially for children.
"They are stars. Every place they go, they get attention. They're in front of cameras. They're working. The children are working. It's against child law, if you want to think of it that way," says Dr. Lynn. "So, the children are being exploited for the parental needs. Does it have to be that way? No," she says firmly.
Hannah Keeley is a behavioral therapist and the host of a new PBS reality TV series called "Hannah Help me." She gives a two-day life skills makeover for overwhelmed housewives and mothers.
Keeley says her show is different than most reality shows because its purpose is to educate not to sensationalize.
"My goal is not to achieve fame, is not to achieve financial success," she says. "My goal is to really get moms excited, to motivate moms. To elevate the career of motherhood to the esteemed position that it deserves to be in."
Keeley, a wife and mother of seven, says she practices what she preaches.
"I really have to prioritize and decide what the most important thing to do is. And things I will not let slip are time with my family and being hands on with my kids and managing my home. If that starts to falter then everything else falls apart."
The kids all help out. Mom home schools them. And she says there's still time left over for play and family bonding and ... energy to write her books and do her shows.
But therapist Dorree Lynn says to raise such a large family, it takes a village.
"Either the older children become quasi parents for younger children or a wise family develops a support system whether they are part of a church or a temple of a community. But no two people, nobody can take care of all the needs of a tribe," she concludes.
Dorree Lynn says families dealing with the media need to keep the unit strong and priorities straight. That, she says starts with the parents.
"We're certainly in a celebrity world where very many people think being on TV or reality TV show or fifteen minutes of fame gets the money, wealth, exposure. That can make sense. What goes wrong though, is that the performance overtakes the paternity or overtakes the family."
Dr. Lynn says if TV is treated like a job, it's possible to be in the spotlight and still maintain family values.