Jennifer Aniston Not 'Destructive,' Say Parenting Experts
By Catherine Donaldson-Evans Posted Aug 12th 2010 09:01PM
Bill O'Reilly may think that Jennifer Aniston is "destructive to society" and sending kids the wrong message because her new movie, 'The Switch,' is about a single woman having a baby without a man. But parenting experts say the host of FOX News' 'The O'Reilly Factor' is out of tune with modern families.
"It's unrealistic and not in touch with how family is changing," social psychologist Susan Newman, author of 'Parenting an Only Child,' tells PopEater. "The traditional family that we have always known as mom, dad and two kids is no longer the traditional family."
O'Reilly took on the 41-year-old actress after she made comments while promoting the film, which co-stars Jason Bateman and sees Aniston playing a woman who decides to have a baby using a sperm donor and artificial insemination.
"Women are realizing more and more that you don't have to settle, they don't have to fiddle with a man to have that child," Aniston said. "They are realizing if it's that time in their life and they want this part they can do it with or without that."
Some speculate that the currently single Aniston may have been offering a hint about her own possible plans for motherhood. But O'Reilly said the star's remarks were irresponsible because she's a role model to children.
"She's throwing a message out to 12-year-olds and 13-year-olds that, 'Hey you don't need a guy. You don't need a dad.' That is destructive to our society," he said.
Studies say otherwise and have shown that isn't the case, according to Newman.
"Children of single parents do just as well as kids who have two parents," she says. "There's nothing in the research that says having a baby by yourself is a terrible thing."
Another parental advocate says younger kids probably didn't even hear Aniston's comments.
"I don't think 12- or 13-year-olds are paying attention to what Jennifer Aniston says or even know who she is for that matter," Beth Feldman, founder of Role Mommy, tells PopEater. "Jen's message is meant for 30- and 40-something women who haven't yet met the love of their life -- and she's right on target."
Later in his diatribe, O'Reilly lambasted the actress for dismissing dads.
"Jennifer Aniston can hire a battery of people to help her," he argued. "But she can't hire a dad. Dads bring a psychology to children that in this society is under emphasized. Men get hosed all day long in the parental arena ... The fathers that do try hard are under appreciated and diminished by people like Jennifer Aniston."
Feldman says the TV personality was out of line and over-the-top when he attacked Aniston.
"Bill O'Reilly went overboard in his condemnation of Jennifer Aniston," she says. "Dads definitely play an important role in the lives of their children, but if a single woman ... wants to raise a child without the support of a man and if that woman happens to be Jennifer Aniston, then I say go for it. In the end, that baby is going to be the luckiest boy or girl on the planet!"
About 41 percent of newborns have single mothers, according to the Pew Research Center. Newman says that if there isn't a father in the picture, a woman can make sure male role models play a significant part in the child's life.
Parenting expert and psychologist Carl Pickhardt says that while fathers are important, even more crucial to a baby's well-being is "the quality of parental commitment to raising that child after it is born."
"It is a prejudice that single parents -- mostly moms -- are deficient parents," he tells PopEater. "In fact, they are among the strongest and most resourceful parents I see."
No matter what O'Reilly thinks about women having babies alone, he needs to accept it, according to Newman.
"It's actually a reality -- it's what's happening in society," she says. "Women are more independent, they're waiting longer to have children and they don't necessarily have to wait for Mr. Right because they have the family and financial support they need."
But though about 80 percent of single parents are mothers, having a man around is key to a child's development too, according to Pickhardt. In his book, 'The Connected Father,' he outlines the ways dads can contribute, especially during the difficult teen years.
"If the movie asks the question, 'Why shouldn't a woman make a child without having a father in the picture?' there is only this: An involved father can enrich the family life of all concerned," he says.
In the end, O'Reilly and others acting outraged by the movie and its lead actress may be taking it all just a little too seriously.
"I think everybody is missing the point. This is a romantic comedy," says Newman. "It's for laughs and for fun and it's a good story. I don't think she's sending messages that everybody should go out and have a baby as a single woman."
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Mark Seliger, Harper's Bazaar
Mark Seliger, Harper's Bazaar
Jennifer Aniston in Harpers Bazaar
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