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So when real family life is stressful enough for the typical family with two kids, two jobs and a pile of bills to pay, why are so many tuning in to watch these large families, who undoubtedly have more stress?

“People are interested in families,” Ms. Ross says. “They are interested in budgeting or sibling rivalry — the stuff to which average families, Christian or not, can relate. Whether a family is religious or abnormally large, we are all curious about how families live.”

Mr. Radosh says viewers should keep in mind that even a family reality show may not be as real as it looks. There are still editors creating “characters” and a story line. Family squabbles get exaggerated, family members’ personality quirks are edited to make them look like “the angry one” or “the instigator.” If the show was just about normal family life like running errands and washing floors, viewers probably wouldn’t watch.

“Keep in mind, there is nothing ‘real’ about reality TV,” Mr. Radosh says.

Ms. Henson, from the Parents Television Council, agrees.

“People mean well,” she says, “but they are not always going to be depicted well. They often turn into caricatures.”

While family reality shows have found a place as good viewing for entire families, Ms. Henson is concerned for the stars of the show.

“I occasionally watch ‘Supernanny,’” Ms. Henson says of the ABC series where child expert Jo Frost is sent to the home of children with behavior problems to offer strategies for both parent and child. “There is some useful information on there, but I also wonder about what kind of effect it will have on these kids five or 10 years from now, to have tantrums and their worst moments be shown on TV.”

Ms. Henson also has concerns about cameras following children around almost constantly, which they surely must do for series such as “Jon & Kate” and “18 Kids.” What kind of effect is that having on a child’s natural growth and psyche? Imagine, for instance, how tough the middle-school years are. Then imagine if your moods and behavior were televised to a national audience.

“It is interesting to see how some families live,” Ms. Henson says. “But I am not sure if having cameras in the home 24/7 is the best way to educate other parents.”