On Monday, Juan Pablo Galavis was named the newest star of ABC's long-running "The Bachelor" franchise. If Desiree Harstock, the most recent star of the spinoff "The Bachelorette," didn't see a future with the 32-year-old former soccer player, producers did, citing reasons like "his Spanish accent, good looks, salsa moves, and undying devotion for his daughter."
Though the network hasn't confirmed the extent to which Camila — Galavis's 4-year-old daughter with an ex-girlfriend — will appear on the show, she'll reportedly be included in the process. It's a lot to ask of a child.
In recent seasons of "The Bachelor," kids have made steady cameos on the romantic competition show, ostensibly helping their single parents see through the bull, or (if nothing else) stand out from the crowd. This past season, contestant Ben Scott landed the first rose when he stepped out of the limo with adorable toddler Brody.
"It's not a bad strategy on the part of those looking for love — their adorable offspring make them memorable and appear even more nurturing and loving to a prospective mate," sociologist and media critic Hilary Levey Friedman told Yahoo! Shine. The strategy has also proven valuable for the network's ratings.
In 2009, the show's first single dad, Jason Mesnick, was responsible for a 2.5 million ratings spike — at the time, the series' biggest audience in five years — when he launched his search for love with the help of his son, Ty, then 3 years old.
"The single-dad factor has made the divorced Mr. Mesnick appealing on a different level — the nurturing level," Bill Carter, media reporter for the New York Times, wrote at the time.
After so many failed relationships in the aftermath of the show, the presence of a child raised the stakes, and somehow made Mesnick more believable as a long-term partner.
In the process, his young son was exposed to more than most kids his age. He met a whittled-down version of dad's potential mates, while his father floundered between women. Off camera, his parents' relationship played out bitterly in the press.
"It's extremely psychologically harmful to the child," Dr. Fran Walfish, child and family psychotherapist and author of "The Self-Aware Parent," told Yahoo! Shine. "Seeing parents date other people creates tremendous conflict and confusing feelings for a child, and to have to go along with it on camera, in front of an audience, is a big fat mistake on part of the parents."
But Mesnick is still one of the show's few successes. (He married his runner-up contestant and the two recently welcomed a child together.) Not so lucky was single mom Emily Maynard, who exposed her young daughter, Ricki, to two crumbling televised relationships and a few home-town dates over the course of two years. After her mom "won" "The Bachelor," Ricki bonded, on-camera and off, with Brad Womack, the man who might have been her stepfather. When that didn't work out, the then-7-year-old Ricki participated in Maynard's turn as "The Bachelorette." But now that her second relationship stemming from the show — that one with winner Jef Holm — has fallen apart (the two ended their engagement last fall), Ricki's exposure to questionable characters and probing cameras may have consequences.
"If the relationship does not work out, it's one more emotional loss for the child," said Walfish. "Many of the mothers and fathers who bring their kids on this show will probably not understand the long-term harm this can cause for the kid."
"I tell parents, 'Do not introduce your child to a guy you're dating until there's a commitment verbalized and in place, which is usually around 6 months,'" said Walfish. The show is shot over several weeks, and the dating process is hardly monogamous during that period.
If nothing else, the series is starting to reflect the changing culture. In recent years, the number of single father households in the United States has grown to more than 2.6 million, while the number of single moms has quadrupled to 8.6 million, according to Pew Research. And they're entitled to a piece of the TV fairy tale too.
"I'm confident if I become 'The Bachelor,' I will definitely find my future wife and stepmom for Camila," Galavis said in a taped video introduction to his season. Sure, he may be ready to "open his heart," as they say, but should his kid really have to do the same?