June 6, 2007 -- It may be perfectly normal for a parent to give a child a piggyback ride, but for Lindsay Lohan and her mother that practice is inverted -- the child is doing the heavy lifting while the mother appears happy to go along for the ride.
Dina Lohan, Lindsay's mother, has reportedly been given the chance to do a reality show with E! in which she will try to make celebrities out her youngest children: Lindsay's sister Aliana, 14, and brother Cody, 11. A spokesperson from E! said the cable channel had no comment on the reports of Lohan's show.
The prototype for her motherly celebrity-making process has certainly been made.
Sent to work at Ford Models at the ripe old age of 3, Lindsay Lohan, 20, spent her preteen and teen years doing commercials and acting in soap operas and smaller movies before catching her big break with the 2004 hit film "Mean Girls."
Lindsay has since become a household name and a tabloid regular, as much for her off-camera foibles as for her professional achievements. The not-yet-legal-to-drink Lindsay recently checked in for a second stint in a rehabilitation facility in an effort to reform her hard-partying ways.
Having pushed her daughter for so many years, Lohan seems determined not to let the fanfare surrounding Lindsay pass her by. It was one thing when Dina was photographed leaving Hyde nightclub with a boy-toy while Lindsay was attending AA meetings, but news that she is using her younger children to promote herself has caused a negative reaction from some sections of the Hollywood community.
"What I have for this woman (Dina Lohan) is loathing," said Paul Petersen, a former child star himself and the founder of A Minor Consideration, an organization geared to improving the protection and rights afforded to children in the entertainment industry. "I would like to ask her, 'Have you not seen the condition of Lindsay?'"
A member of the Mickey Mouse Club by 10, Petersen became a teenage heartthrob after becoming a star in the 1950s and '60s sitcom "The Donna Reed Show." Now 61, Petersen is aghast at what he perceives as the exploitation of minors.
"These parents do this as they're cowards who are too scared to go out there and do it for themselves," Petersen told ABC News. "These children are robbed of their right of choice, and their opportunity to learn and grow in life is stolen from them by parents who should go to jail for this treatment."
The Perils of Child Actors
The reality of children on set has often been the cause of friction.
In 1982, tragedy struck during the filming of Steven Spielberg's "Twilight Zone" when a helicopter being used in the filming was damaged by pyrotechnics and crashed onto the set, killing three, including My-ca Le, 7, and Renee Chen, 6. The film suffered at the box office due to the infamous incident, and as a result regulations were tightened involving children on set during scenes laden with special effects and those filmed at night.
Macaulay Culkin had the world at his feet after the 1990s movie "Home Alone," but he soon fell from the limelight as his mother and father, who was also his manager, battled for custody. Considered by many as a shining example of the pitfalls of child success, Culkin married and divorced by the age of 20 and hit a new low in 2004 when briefly jailed for drug possession.
Despite sorting out his professional and personal life over the last couple of years, Culkin has yet to regain the fame he held in the '90s.
This past January, the movie "HoundDog" disgusted some at the Sundance Film Festival after 12-year-old actress Dakota Fanning appeared in a rape scene.
Fame at Any Cost
Experts are concerned that the message sent out by mothers like Lohan is indicative of a culture that forgets common sense in the pursuit of prominence. They believe that message could have harmful effects for the children caught up in it all.
"It's hideous that she (Dina Lohan) is using her children to fulfill her own ambitions," said life coach therapist Alyson Mischel. "The chance of her other children getting the fame Lindsay has is slim-to-none so she is setting them up to fail."
Certainly the track records of young stars and their even younger siblings do not compare favorably. Kevin Dillon is unlikely to ever be nominated for an Oscar like his brother Matt. Jamie Lynn Spears is 16 now but needs her last name, made famous by her pop starlet sister Britney, to gain any semblance of recognition. And Ashlee Simpson's nose job has thus far failed to turn her into big sister Jessica.
"A good parent, I would hope, would rather have an average child than one with a personal fortune but a slew of personal problems to go with it," said Mischel. "Drug and alcohol problems affect many people but they're often exacerbated by money and star status at a young age."
Psychotherapist Licia Ginne said that there is no one factor that explains why certain parents covet fame for their children and are prepared to go to any lengths to get it.
"Part of why mothers do this is very complicated, and the reasons come from their own history and genetic makeup," Ginne told ABC News. "However, much of the motive is often financial gain or a desire to make up for an opportunity they missed when they were young."
Hollywood Parents Aren't Alone
Examples of pushy parents living vicariously through their offspring can be seen by visiting a high school football game on Friday night or a kids' soccer game on a Sunday afternoon. Whether they're children are boys or girls and whether they're playing at age 10 or age 16, certain parents are likely to be there who cross the line from encouragement to bullying.
"This kind of pressure is not healthy for a child, and parents who push them this hard are not helping the child grow and develop," said Ginne, who has more than 25 years of experience working in the mental health field. "In (the case of the Lohans) there is narcissism involved where the mother wanted a particular lifestyle, and now she is taking advantage of the secondary media and living it."
Whether Lohan had always planned to try and take center stage from her children is not known, but some who see the entertainment world up close believe moral standards are slipping across the board.
"It is ironic and poignant that shame has been filleted from American dialogue," said Michael Levine, a Los Angeles public relations expert who has represented numerous Hollywood A-listers. "My opinion has to do with society at large, but in the Lohan case the most peculiar aspect is that this can be happening when Lindsay is in so much pain."
So the trend of pushy parents who hope to be carried through their later years by their children's fame appears to still be in full flow. At least Lohan shares her daughter's skinny frame -- otherwise Lindsay's knees may have buckled by now.