If you think the reality TV shows "Teen Mom" and "16 and Pregnant" set a horrible example for teens, you've got science on your side. A new study published in the journal Mass Communication and Society found that young fans of these two series are shockingly envious of the shows' stars.
The study found that teen fans of the shows (especially those who believe in the authenticity of reality television), say the teen mothers have an enviable quality of life; high incomes; supportive, loyal romantic partners; and that their children are well cared for. Um, OK.
"It's possible that MTV wanted to cast these teens as a cautionary tale of teen pregnancy, but the shows have created the opposite effect," study co-author Robin E. Jenkins, assistant professor of communication at the University of Utah, tells Yahoo Shine. "The teens are exploited, yet that's overshadowed by their high salaries and media attention, so the takeaway for teenagers is positive." And while there's no evidence of a direct cause-and-effect between watching these shows and the teen pregnancy rate (which is actually on the decline), Jenkins says that it's difficult to measure, the show has likely had an impact on teenagers.
What could possibly be enviable about the lives of single, teenage mothers? Let's see. Janelle Evans, 21, mother of a 16-month-old son has battled a heroin addiction and has multiple arrests under her belt. In 2010, she lost custody of her son, and is currently pregnant with her second child. Farrah Abraham, a 22-year-old mother of a 3-year-old daughter, made a sex tape with porn star James Deen and is now starring on VH1's "Couples Therapy." And Amber Portwood, 24, mother of a 4-year-old daughter, was arrested for domestic violence in 2010 after beating her child's father in front of the little girl. She recently admitted to Us magazine that she was high on drugs for most of filming.
And it's not just pregnant single teens that wield influence. The Pew Research Center reports that marriage rates are declining, yet pregnancies among the over-30 single set are soaring. According to a "Today" show report, one possibility for the rise is the prevalence of single moms in Hollywood.
Let's be clear: There's nothing inherently wrong with choosing to be a single mother if you're mature, responsible, and financially independent. It's when women view single celebrity mothers (who have the time, money, and hired help, to squeeze in red-carpet appearances, European vacations, date nights and parenting duties) and falsely believe that single motherhood is a lifestyle that's fairly easy to pull off. Even Madonna will tell you it's not.
Fortunately, "Teen Mom 2" won't be renewed for another season, although, depressingly, the more successful "Teen Mom 2" will, on January 20. Parents, hide your teens now.