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Children, television, and families: A content analysis of prime-time family programs and an examination of the influence of children's family structure on their perceptions of TV and real families

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Title: Children, television, and families: A content analysis of prime-time family programs and an examination of the influence of children's family structure on their perceptions of TV and real families
Author(s): Heintz, Katharine Elizabeth
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Wartella, Ellen
Department / Program: Communications
Discipline: Communications
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Sociology, Individual and Family Studies Mass Communications
Abstract: In a project examining the relationship between portrayals of families on prime time television and children's perceptions of families in real-life and on television, three studies were conducted. The project was guided by social constructivist theory, which proposes that children's interpretations of television are influenced by their cognitive development, their prior experiences, and the media content. Studies of both content and audience interpretation were conducted.First, an historical analysis of the portrayals of single-parent families on prime time indicated that, consistent with examinations of other populations on television, White, middle class, male professionals are overrepresented as single parents and nonwhite, working class, females are underrepresented.Second, an analysis of family interactions on children's favorite family programs revealed that family interactions are overwhelmingly affiliative. A comparison with an earlier study indicates, however, that family interactions on the sample programs are twice as likely to be conflictual than previously, although conflict remains primarily within the spousal dyad or in pairs including a brother.Third, 381 Chicago elementary school children were surveyed in the Spring of 1990. This information was supplemented by data collected in a survey of single parents and in-home observations of single-parent families.The data were analyzed to see if television's portrayals of families influenced children's perceptions of real families, or if children's family structure influenced their perceptions of television families. The data indicate that children's family situation does influence their impressions of families, with children from single-parent families offering more negative descriptions of both real and TV fathers. Although it is argued that fathers on TV are often portrayed negatively, the traits for which the two groups differed significantly on frequency of selection were not those that are characteristic of TV fathers ("mean," and "has a bad temper").Children from two-parent families reported more use of TV for learning about families, although the difference was not statistically significant. It was suggested that these children may find TV families more relevant to their immediate living situation, and thus, seek learning gratifications from TV. There was no difference between groups on measures of perceived reality of TV.
Issue Date: 1992
Type: Text
Language: English
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/21607
Rights Information: Copyright 1992 Heintz, Katharine Elizabeth
Date Available in IDEALS: 2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog: AAI9236481
OCLC Identifier: (UMI)AAI9236481
 

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