Growing Pains TV Poster Image

Growing Pains

'80s favorite offers laughs and life lessons.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Jason and Maggie Seaver are compassionate parents who communicate well and always offer first-rate guidance to their kids. Every episode includes positive messages about themes like self-esteem, reliability, and finding a passion in life. Parents and kids share in all household tasks. Siblings do often argue and pick on each other, including jokes at the expense of sister Carol's weight (the actress who played here, Tracey Gold, battled eating disorders in real life).

Violence & scariness

Playful scuffles (mostly among feuding siblings) never result in injury.

Sexy stuff

Some kissing scenes among teens, and lots of dating and relationship issues. Terms like "sexy" are used very rarely, and there are occasional jokes at the expense of bisexuality, transsexuality, and homosexuality. One of the supporting characters has the nickname "Boner."


Very rare use of "damn" and "hell."


Brandless soda and junk food (chips, candy).

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Occasional social drinking by adults. Underage drinking, smoking, and drug use are addressed, but the message is always "don't do it," and the consequences are negative.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this '80s sitcom is about a strong nuclear family headed by loving parents who communicate well with each other and their kids. It's heavy on positive messages about self-esteem, personal responsibility, and making good choices, all of which are delivered in storylines that are relatable for tweens and teens. Most episodes deal with typical issues for families with kids who are coming of age: budding romantic relationships, popularity woes, and adolescent mischief. Some topics can be emotional, including encounters with prejudice and the death of family members and friends. Teen characters face peer pressure to drink, smoke, and do drugs, but they always make the tough choice and do the right thing.

What's the story?

Classic '80s sitcom GROWING PAINS follows the ups and downs of family life with a full household of busy kids and two parents managing successful careers. Alan Thicke stars as Dr. Jason Seaver, a psychiatrist who, for much of the series, runs his practice out of his house so he can help out while wife Maggie (Joanna Kerns) pursues her career as a journalist. Despite their busy schedules, this dynamic parenting duo always manages to carve out bits of time for themselves and each other, and their loving, mutually considerate relationship is the foundation for the entire family. Meanwhile, oldest son Mike (Kirk Cameron) is a below-average student prone to getting into lots of good-natured mischief; middle child Carol (Tracey Gold) excels in academics and is a bit of a goody-two-shoes; and rambunctious younger son Ben (Jeremy Miller) gets into his fair share of trouble, too. In 1990, a fourth child joined the Seaver family when Maggie gave birth to Chrissy, who (through the miracle of TV) matured between seasons to become a perky youngster played by Ashley Johnson; another late addition was Leonardo DiCaprio as Luke Brower, a homeless teenager who came to live with the Seavers.

Is it any good?


Though Growing Pains is a typical sitcom in many ways -- most obviously in the ability to solve problems in less than 30 minutes -- its comedy roots didn't stop it from addressing some emotional issues that are still relevant today, including bigotry, sexism, women balancing careers and family, loved ones' death, and teen drug and alcohol use. Through it all, strong messages about responsibility, self-respect, accepting others, and making good decisions come through thanks to the strong parental role models who invite communication and open relationships with their kids. While very young viewers won't be able to grasp the storylines, this is a great series to share with older kids, tweens, and young teens, who may end up liking it so much -- despite the cheesy '80s clothes and hair -- that they won't realize the life lessons they're picking up along the way.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how parents and kids relate to each other. Kids: Do you find the characters in this series believable? How are their relationships with their parents different from yours? How do their relationships with their siblings compare to yours? How does this show compare to today's sitcoms? What marks it as an "'80s show"? The series also offers plenty of plot-based discussion points. What issues did the characters face in the show? Who did they turn to for help? What would you have done in their situation? Do you think the parents' advice was good? Why or why not?

TV details

Premiere date:September 24, 1985
Cast:Alan Thicke, Joanna Kerns, Kirk Cameron
Networks:ION, Nickelodeon, Syndicated
TV rating:TV-PG
Available on:DVD

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written byAntonKreitzer December 2, 2011

Quite the racy family sitcom, especially compared to its contemporaries

Growing Pains is one of my favourite shows, after randomly stumbling on it flicking the channels last year. Whilst a lot of episodes are fine for children to watch, a lot aren't, and children, especially those under 15, should be supervised. Mike, the older son of the family, is quite naughty until the later years of the show, notably thanks to Kirk Cameron, the actor who played him, finding God. A few other episodes involve drugs, tattoos, promiscuity, and drinking amongst other adult topics, but there is nothing TOO harmful, and the positive message always prevails at the end of the episode, courtesy of the parents of the family, money-careful Jason and super-woman Maggie. Carol, the brain of the family and the older daughter, is a good role model for children, teenagers and even young adults like myself, over the course of the series, she learns that outside appearances aren't everything, to not succumb to peer pressure, and to just be herself. The aforementioned Mike and younger brother Ben are great for laughs, whilst younger daughter Chrissy, in all honesty, doesn't add very much to the show. One more note, to parents of younger viewers of the show, in episodes where Mike, Ben, or in rare cases Carol get up to no good, explain to our children that what they did was wrong, pointing out in particular how Jason and Maggie handled the situation. By all means, let your kids watch this show, but if they're under 13, watch it with them as a family, like millions of families did back in the 1980s. You'll be sharing the laughter and love for years to come!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written byComrade Barnabas April 9, 2008

Now THIS is the show for memories about growing up!

Honestly, I didn't watch the series until I was pretty much entering adulthood. But I definitely enjoyed it for the memories it brought of my own never-ending road toward maturity. We get to see the hilarious life of an urban, middle-class, moderately liberal family from the late 1980s. As the years pass, all the characters go through their "growing pains" and learn unforgettable lessons along the way. The story line and jokes are remarkably clever - nearly everyone in the audience can relate to some of them when thinking about their own adolescence. As for appropriateness, there are a few definite "PG" episodes, especially the ones that deal with drugs and alcohol. But the message is always one of "just say no." But most of the other shows are very tame, even if they do deal with puberty and dating and romance. Mild sexual innuendos will probably not be noticed by kids under 9 or 10. (The only one that could pose a problem would be if a kid hears the nickname "Boner" and starts using it on his friends or in front of the teacher...I used to live next door to a guy who grew up with that very nickname.) What I love best about Growing Pains is how good the creative quality is compared to today's cr** on TV. It brings back memories of when TV had at least a handful of truly good programs.
Kid, 12 years old April 9, 2008

it's a pretty good show .