NBC television may call its reality show "a new social
experiment" but both APA and the American Academy of Child and
Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) have a few other choice words to describe"
The Baby Borrowers."
On the show five adolescent couples become temporary "parents"
to "babies, toddlers, pre-teens and their pets, teenagers, and senior
citizens." The babies and children are lent to the show by their
parents; the babies are aged 6 months to 11 months. The parents, some of whom
are teenagers themselves, "are stationed next door," NBC
explained, "watching via monitor and able to step in at any
After the teen couples "parent" the baby for three days, the
babies are returned to their real parents, and the teens then get a toddler,
and so on. The goal of the show, the network says, is to show these teens what
the future will hold when they reach adulthood and to make them assess whether
they want a future with their current boyfriend or girlfriend.
The network considers the show "an intriguing social
APA President Nada Stotland, M.D., M.P.H., expressed outrage at the show in
a July 28 press release, stating that "APA deplores the use of babies
and toddlers as props or experimental subjects for a television
"It is inappropriate and sometimes harmful to remove very young
children from their families and familiar environments," Stotland
emphasized, "and the level of harm may not be apparent on simple
observation. Since the program is meant to reveal whether the 'borrowers' are
competent to care for these children, at least some of the children will have
been exposed to incompetent and confused caregivers and to whatever
problematic situations arose as the caregivers struggled with each
AACAP also found little to like in the show, emphasizing in a July 2 letter
from AACAP President Robert Hendren, D.O., to Jeff Zucker, president of NBC
Universal, that "separating babies and toddlers from their caregivers
for extended periods of time can lead children to feel distress and anxiety.
After prolonged separation," AACAP said, "a child can feel
distrust for his or her primary caregiver. This can damage a healthy
attachment and a child's sense of safety and security."
Because of the serious potential that infants and toddlers could be harmed,
AACAP has called on NBC to stop airing the show, stressing that the network
should not be gambling with a child's sense of security.
"Although it is laudable to educate teens about the great
responsibility of parenting, a more constructive approach would have been to
have the teenagers shadow a family of a toddler or baby, keeping parents
close," AACAP suggested.
Stotland called on NBC to refrain from ever rerunning the show and"
to use every means to discourage the use of episodes in parenting
classes or other venues where they might well be shown."