Reality shows highlight young, unplanned pregnancies
Published: Monday, September 3, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 3, 2012 20:09
On August 26, 24-year-old Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi shared the news that she and fiancé Jionni LaValle had their baby, a boy named Lorenzo Dominic. “The Jersey Shore” star took to Twitter to confirm the birth, saying, “Being a mom is an amazing feeling!!! I love my little man to death! Jionni is such a cute dad.”
Polizzi is not alone as a reality television star in the young and unmarried mothers club. She joins women like Farrah Abraham and Amber Portwood of MTV’s “Teen Mom,” whose lives have been broadcast to the public since their unexpected pregnancies.
Dannagal Young, a communications professor, stresses that media like “Teen Mom” and news like Snooki’s pregnancy can have a strong effect on society.
“Reality television can shape what people think is normal or commonplace behavior,” she says. “In that regard, these shows might inflate young people’s understanding of how commonplace teen pregnancy is.”
Young says that the situations in reality shows are almost always negative, though. She says the boyfriends are often absent or abusive, the parents do not give support, and the young women simply struggle to get by.
“While the shows might persuade young people that teen pregnancy is happening all the time, they certainly do not glorify the situation,” she says. “Instead they provide the gritty reality of life with an infant.”
Fashion and apparel studies professor Jaehee Jung studies the media’s influence on body image and psychological function.
Currently teaching in Korea, she stated in an email message that the age of parenthood could affect experiences that follow it.
“Their opportunities for personal growth through means such as education and travel will be more limited since they have a limited financial resource and a stable environment,” she says.
Sophomore Colleen Soliman says she is a fan of “16 and Pregnant” as well as its successor “Teen Mom.” Soliman says growing up with a very religious mother made her view the correct order as getting married before having a baby.
Soliman says she developed her own views on young pregnancies as she grew up.
“Now that I have grown and formed my own opinion, I don’t judge others who choose a different life path,” she says. “For me personally, I believe it is just easier and more secure to be married before you have children. If I’m going to have a child with this person, I don’t want the child to be our only binding, I’d like to have a marriage first.”
Jung says being a parent is a huge responsibility for anyone to take on, regardless of age. On her current TV show, “Snooki and JWoww,” Polizzi announced to her friends that she is now engaged to Jionni because of the pregnancy.
Jung says that the shows have turned into somewhat of a social trend and do show some praise for young pregnancy, whether intended or not.
“Teen pregnancy is a social issue, not just an individual issue, because society is responsible for creating healthy environments for children to grow to their fullest,” she says.
Senior Jenna Enos says she is a big fan of “Jersey Shore” and “Teen Mom,” as well as “Friends” where the character Rachel had a child out of wedlock. She says she gained the impression through these shows that pregnancy at a young age only complicates life.
“I have seen young mothers struggle with money issues, not be able to finish or attend school, and have to give up their social lives,” Enos says.
Enos says she views accidental pregnancies as irresponsible and she would never consider having a child when she was not married. She says she gossiped about girls she knew in high school who got pregnant mistakenly.
“Society has definitely gained some understanding for young or unmarried couples with children,” she says. “However, it is still viewed as a negative thing by many people.”
Enos says she thinks shows like “Teen Mom” actually convince teens to be safer to avoid getting pregnant.
“I know that it definitely turns me off from ever wanting to have a child at such a young age,” she says.
Polizzi’s Twitter now sports the title of “Proud Mommy” and she has tweeted regularly about her new baby and his father.
“I’m legit an old lady,” she tweeted. “Rockin the diapers with that old lady gangsta lean.”
Enos says she hopes Polizzi will be a successful mother.
“I would tell her to lay off the alcohol and partying,” she says. “And to really accept the fact that she needs to grow up if she is going to successfully take care of another human being.”