Family views


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Family views the effect of training parents to mediate their children's television viewing on children's comprehension of commercials
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viii, 172 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm.
Matthews, Denise
Publication Date:


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Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1994.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 161-171).
Statement of Responsibility:
by Denise Matthews.
General Note:
General Note:

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University of Florida
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This manuscript is dedicated to the memory of my father, Phathon James


who taught me to cherish my own creativity and originality


My utmost gratitude goes to Roger Jon Desmond who provided the

major direction for this research and guided me through from its embryonic

stages to its final form.

His insight and dedication were invaluable to the

entire project.


Wright remained optimistic and flexible throughout this

process while offering excellent advice as chair of my committee.


Weigold brought method to this madness and devoted crucial thought and

energy to this work far beyond duty.

Kim Walsh-Childers supplied important grounding in media effects

research with children as well as those intimations that the perils of my

personal PhD path were not unique.

Patricia Miller crossed disciplines to provide me with the benefit of her

highly respected knowledge of developmental psychology

She also nurtured

my process with encouragement and much appreciated warmth.

Both Barbara Taylor and Evelyn Rooks-Weir birthed my earliest

interest in this subject.

opened doors.

Their excellent community ties and reputation

Because of their quality work in the community, I received

nr n nn C; n ~ n i n rr nn rr~ n C: h~ ~lurn~M a rr~ n ~ln Hn n: r] n n ~ rl C~ n n r] m:n; nCHn C; n 11 nC

My dear friends Randi Cameon and Bill Black came to my rescue in a

very dark hour to save the experimental integrity of the project when my

father died.

My graduate school soul mate, Lynn Dirk, provided invaluable

help throughout this project from earliest conception to serving as a research

assistant on site.

Helen Maltezos always

believed in this endeavor and

supported me from the first.

I thank David Halpern,


an excellent statistical consultant and a great

I also thank workshop leader Barbara Young for her enthusiasm and

extra help and the many other individuals who actually toiled in this project--

the excellent interviewers, Martine Gauthier-Zotto

Ginny Reamy

and Sam

Venus; food organizers Lisa Herd, Maria Masque; and child care expert

Maria Azare.

Also, I thank the dedicated Head Start teachers who

cooperated in every way possible to make this project go smoothly

thank my mother who is a political genius and a tireless


public servant, and

who really knew how to mediate my TV viewing.


Sa g~e





Parental Mediation.
Children's Television
Research on Children
The Child Market ..
Intervention to Increa
Viewing . .

Viewing as a Public Issue . .
I and Television Advertising .

ise Parent Mediation of Children'


* 4
* 4 .

* S 4 4
i n

* S S S S S 8


Historical Context: Family Variables in
Effects and Children . . . .
Parent-Child Interaction about Televisio
Theories that Help Explain How Parent-

the Study of Media

S *

n . . . .
Child Interaction

* S S S S 4 S S
* S S S S S S S

Helps Preschool Children Understand Television

Previous Interventions to
of Children's Television
Parent Intervention
Rationale for an Intervent
The Hypotheses .......

Encourage Parental Mediation
Viewing. . . . . .



S 1Lionlets So S is** St Sy *


Descriptive Statistics
Scale Properties ....
Test of the Hypotheses

. . . . . . ... 95
S. . p. .. .. .. . p...p 98
. . . . . P P . p 103

ANALYSIS AND CONCLUSION ...........................

Research Problem and Findings Reviewed ...... ....... ...
Limitations of this Investigation
Conclusions . . . .

Public Policy Implications and a Call for Media Literacy
Suggestions for Further Investigation . . .

. . 131






N . ... . . . .

CHILD MEIASURE . . ..... 149






Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy





Denise Matthews

December 1994



Major Department:

Mass Communications

The effect of encouraging and training low-income parent/caretakers to

mediate their preschool (age 5) child's television viewing on children's

comprehension of television commercials was investigated.

Children (n


from eight Head Start classrooms were pretested for three levels of

comprehension of television advertising:

ability to discriminate between

programs and commercials, understanding of the intent of commercial

messages, and understanding the deceptive potential of commercials.

Subsequent to child protesting,

parent dyads (n

self-selected parent/caretaker and

= 45) attended a workshop about television viewing and were

randomly assigned to a control or experimental workshop

Parents in the

received information about children's

viewing and discussed television


Two to three weeks subsequent to their parents'

participating in

one of these workshops,

children were posttested.

Children of parents who participated in the experimental workshop

demonstrated significantly greater time 1 to time 2 increases for two open-

ended items that measured children's understanding of the intent of

commercials than children of control workshop parents.

Posttest responses

indicated that children of experimental workshop parents accurately

articulated intent of commercials to induce buying the product significantly

more often than children of control workshop parents.

No significant main

effects or interaction effects for time by treatment were found for any of the

other dependent measures.


pretest ability varied widely among the three levels of

commercial comprehension.

Ability to discriminate commercials from

programming was relatively high and increased only slightly on the posttest.

Pretest levels of understanding commercials' deceptive potential was low and

remained low on the posttest. However

the intent of commercials were mixed,

and low scores on free-response items.

er, pretest measures of understanding

with high scores for recognition items

Significant posttest increases for the

experimental group in articulating intent of commercials suggest that

parents can be motivated to successfully apprentice their children in


The intermixing of mass and interpersonal communication that occurs
when families watch television demands that we transcend the narrow

theoretical limits of our subdisciplines.

This arena offers opportunities

to formulate a more fundamental conception of communication as the
basic social process defining, shaping, and coordinating human


(Alexander, 1990, p.223)

Communication between children and parents about television's

symbols acts as a powerful influence intervening between television content

and its effect on children (Alexander, 1990


, Singer & Singer,



, Fitzpatrick,


& Fallis

,1982; Reid, 1979).

Parents/caretakers have the optimal opportunity to mediate the meanings

their children construct from television content because they are the adults

most likely to be present before, during,

and after children view television

(Bryce & Leichter,

1983; Corder-Bolz,

1980; Timmer,


, & O'Brien,


Parental Mediation

In this study parent/caretaker

parent/caretaker-child interaction.

-child mediation implies two types of

One type involves the extent to which

parents and other household members spontaneously answer children

questions about the world around them and offer evaluations and

explanations of people, events, objects,


, and messages like televised


Family mediation also refers to how parents/caretakers create and

enforce standards of behavior and how children are disciplined.

Parental limitation and restriction of viewing selections implicitly

communicates values to children,

while parents' comments about television

content explicitly shape children's

perceptions of reality (Lull,



comments can serve to influence values and views of the world and society

embodied in television programming and commercials (Buerkel-Rothfuss,

Greenberg, Atkin,

& Neuendorf, 1982; Lull, 1980




modeling interpretation of the meanings of televised messages and by talking

to their children about how they interpret television, may help their children

to develop their own capacity for interpreting television fare (Corder-Bolz,


Family rules about what and how much viewing is allowed and a

discussion-oriented family communication style are positively associated with


's lower total viewing (Desmond et al

., 1990)

awareness of prosocial

messages (Abelman, 1986; Buerkel-Rothfuss et al.


understanding of


conventions, recall of narratives, and ability to distinguish

between reality and fantasy (Desmond, Singer,



, & Colimore,

1985; Singer,


Desmond, Hirsch,

& Nicol




Parents who reported being concerned that their children


are affected by television viewing are more likely to report limiting their


's television viewing (Bybee,


& Turow


Parents who

reported being concerned about their children'

understanding of content

were more likely to report engaging in discussions of content with their

children (Abelman, 1990).

Parents who reported using the existing parental

discretion warnings were the same parents who most often reported

mediating their children's

viewing (Slater & Thompson, 1984).

Parental mediation of young children

television viewing in the home

was observed infrequently among the heaviest viewers in a longitudinal

study reported by Desmond et al


The higher parents'


level and the higher their socioeconomic status (SES),

the greater the

likelihood of parents reporting that they mediate their child's






& Roberts

,1978; Medrich,


Rubin & Buckley,


The more parents said they believed in television's

negative effects,

the more parents reported engaging in mediating activities

(Medrich et al.



, African-American parents at all SES levels

were less likely to report that they restrict their children

African-American parents (Medrich et al.

's viewing than non-


The majority of parents surveyed about their interest in their children

viewing have indicated that they would welcome educational information to

that viewing (Bower, 1973; Mohr, 1979).

In their detailed volume about

children and television, Comstock and Paik (1991) commented

The proportions (of parents) in the nationally representative data

who assert they

'often' undertake any of the regulative measures only

infrequently approximate 50%.

Because of the widespread approval

of parent involvement we would expect any inaccuracy in reporting to
over-estimate the degree of regulation. (p. 51)

Although observed relationships between higher levels of parental

television mediation and higher levels of children

television strongly suggest a causal relationship,

's comprehension of

direct attempts to elevate

parental mediation have yielded mixed results (Greenberg,



,1990; Heald,1980; Matthews,




Viewin as a Public Issue

Children view an estimated average of 40,000 television commercials a

year (Condry, 1989; Condry


& Schiebe


Most advertising

targets adults,

but during children

programming, after


and on

Saturday mornings advertisers target children.

Child advocates and free-

market proponents have conflicted about the ethics of targeting television


to children for almost 25 years (Action for Children

's Television

v. FCC


. Child experts argue that directing persuasive commercial

messages at young children who are not ready to understand the persuasive

intent of the message is not fair (Ward et al.


Free-market proponents

argue that the market will self-regulate as parents steer their children away


programming came with the 1990 passage of The Children'

Television Act (CTA), which

minutes per hour of children

restricts the number of allowable commercial

programming on both broadcast and cable

outlets (Palumbo, 1991).


in an effort to increase educational children's


CTA requires broadcast stations to air "some" educational/

informational programming.

A new surge of public concern about the effects of media content on

children has accompanied the introduction of each new communication

medium from motion pictures to television (Wartella, & Reeves,

the 1980s cable boom echoed this pattern.


The penetration of cable presents

children with more advertising and more programming,

violence and adult themes.

including more

Cable subscription increases the need for

parental mediation, but according to Atkin,


and Baldwin (1989),

"Despite this fact,

cable subscribers show no more resolve to intervene in the

viewing process than their broadcast counterparts" (p. 578).

Research on Children and Television Advertising

Media researchers have responded to the public's

concern about children

and television advertising with hundreds of studies during the past two and

half decades (Comstock & Paik,


During the late 19

Os the National

Science Foundation convened a group of media researchers to provide data

for the Federal Trade Commissions' consideration of the issue.

In a

commercials from programming, (b) ability to discern the selling intent of


(c) understanding the persuasive and/or deceptive potential of

television commercials. They concluded that

A substantial proportion of children, particularly tho

se below age

7 or 8,

do not draw upon the concept of selling intent in defining commercials,

in distinguishing them from programs,
suggesting little comprehension and/or

as a critical feature of advertising.

or in explaining their purpose,
low salience of persuasive intent


Comstock and Paik (1991) emphasize that although the data may

suggest that by the time children are seven years old the majority can

correctly identify commercials verses programming, if children cannot

recognize commercials' persuasive intent, their ability to distinguish

commercials as different from the program is irrelevant.

Successful mediation of children'

viewing will be influenced by the

child's developmental level and cognitive capacities.

Levin et al.

(1982) found

that when the researchers used nonverbal measures,

,4-, and 5-year old

preschoolers could make a distinction between commercials and


The youngest children made correct identifications more than

50% of the time and 5-year-old children about 80% of the time.

More than

90% of mothers of 3-year olds reported that their children asked for toys they

saw advertised on television (Lyle & Hoffman,


. Children'

ability to

distinguish between commercials and programming and to associate

advertised products with buying requests develop well in advance of their

normally does not develop until between ages 4 and 5 (Flavell, Flavell &



Understanding the deceptive potential of a commercial; i.e.,

that a commercial may portray a product more attractively on television than

it is in real life in order to induce the audience to buy,

complex cognitive abilities (e.g.,

requires even more

the viewer must be capable of thinking about

the advertiser's

manipulation of the viewer).

The capacity for this type of

recursive thinking does not develop fully until later childhood (Miller et al.,


The Child Market

Half of all 5-year-old children make purchases regularly with the help of

parents (McNeal &



The attraction of marketers to these young

people is based not only on the number of potential consumers but also on the

belief by marketers that young audiences are more desirable because they

have not yet formed brand loyalty (Stabiner, 1993).

Not only are young

children a more easily influenced market, but they are a burgeoning market.

In 1989 the United States birth rate reached more than 4 million for the first

time since the early 1960s (Shrieves,


Marketing specialist

saw this

population increase as an opportunity to cultivate a new children'




A group of 48 million United States spenders younger than

command allowances and incomes that total $15 billion dollars annually

and have the potential of influencing $147 billion dollars worth of purchases

Given this lucrative potential, young child audiences are targeted

aggressively by toy,


cereal, fast food, and other product manufacturers

and service providers (Stabiner,


Although young children

's inability to

discern the selling intent of commercials is well established (Ward et al.,

1977), public policy does not regulate the marketplace.




helping their children to understand the selling intent of commercials--

emerges as a viable option for parents who want their young children to

interpret commercial messages accurately

Researchers using observational

and ethnographic methods have discovered that as audiences interact and


they assign their own meanings to television content that may be

quite discrepant from the meanings intended by sponsors and producers

(Morely, 1993).

Parents may become "cognitive filters" (Ward et al.

,1977) by

pointing out or asking their child to identify the advertised product, or

explaining the selling purpose of the commercial message and that messages

may be deceptive.

Intervention to Increase Parent Mediation of Children



The few studies involving interventions designed to help parents

their television mediation efforts have yielded mixed results.

suggest that simply giving parents information (Greenberg et al.,

These results

1990) is

less effective than giving parents encouragement to regulate their child's

viewing accompanied by explicit instructions and concrete examples (Heald,

investigation is to determine whether children from low-income families--

whose parents are encouraged and informed about why and how to mediate

their young children's television viewing--will increase in ability to

distinguish commercials from programming, in their understanding of the

intent of television advertising,

potential of television advertising.

and in their understanding of the deceptive

The theoretical sources that guided the

conceptualization of this investigation will be discussed in Chapter 2.


Historical Context:
Family Variables in the Study of Media Effects and Children

More than six decades ago,

the Motion Picture Research Council

responded to parental concerns about the influence of violent and sexual

motion picture content on their children by initiating what was to become the

first large-scale research program to study media effects on children,

Payne Fund Studies.

During the late 1920s and early


, a group of

leading United States educational psychologist

, psychologists,

sociologists set out to elucidate the public debate over whether or not

commercial motion pictures were responsible for contemporary youth crime

and delinquency

The scholars conducted a series of 12 large-scale studies on

the influence of motion pictures upon children and youth.

The researchers

used survey,


and qualitative approaches to determine young


use of the medium,

their activities

, school performance, and

demographics, as well as the relationships between their movie viewing and

their knowledge,


and behaviors.

The Payne Fund researchers defined and isolated variables and

mP2.lurod nhsprvablhe nuantifiable outcomes. like learning.


and gender with the influence of motion pictures on behaviors

Several of

these studies revealed that children with strong social ties like family and

community support were less influenced by antisocial motion picture

messages than children with weak social ties (Charters, 1933).


at this

early point in media effects research, researchers identified the importance of

family influence as a factor intervening between the viewer and the message.

The diffusion of television into lives of American children began in the

late 1940s, at the same time the study of mass communications as a distinct

academic discipline developed.

The rapid introduction of television into

American homes catalyzed the public to ask if violent programming content

could be influencing the rise of juvenile delinquency

Legislators called for

studies into the influence of television on children (Rowland,


As early

as 1952

, Congressional hearings addressed this concern.

Although some

backward glance was given to the Payne Fund studies' earlier conclusions,

Senator Owen Harris

, Chair of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency

dismissed the Payne

Fund studio

es' findings as inconclusive.


ignorance of this early

work left researchers of the new medium to rediscover laboriously patterns of

influence that had been established fairly well two decades earlier.

In 1955 Paul Lazarsfeld, one of the founders of communications


, called for the study of parental influence on children

's television

ways families spent their leisure time (Himmelweit,


& Vince,

1958; Shramm, Lyle,

& Parker


Shramm et al.

(1961) conducted a

multi-study program spanning many communities in both the United States

and Canada.

Schramm and his associates

surveyed hundreds of families and

found an active child audience with definite viewing patterns and


This early recognition of the child as active in the process of

television viewing stands apart from the emphasis on how the child is acted

on, characteristic of the effects research that was to follow

Shramm et al.

identified a group of intervening variables that they saw as mediating the

child's viewing process:



sex, family,

and peer relations.

These variables are similar to those identified in several of the Payne Fund

studies three decades earlier.

While family-related variables like income and education provide

demographics that relate to children's

knowledge and behaviors,

they do not

provide a picture of the complexities of interpersonal relating within a family

naturalistic observations are best suited to establish these data (Desmond et

al., 1990; Lull

1980; Lytton


During the 1950s when American

families rapidly adopted television,

the social and behavioral sciences favored

positivist paradigms and methods that relied on quantitative techniques.

Phenomenological approaches to understanding familial influences on


television viewing, like naturalistic observation, did not flourish

early research on television effects on children.


's television

experiences generally were not studied within the context of family variabi

A series of laboratory experiments conducted by Bandura and Ross

(1963) established a strong relationship between young children'


to television models/behaviors and subsequent performance of the same


Identification with a model implies an intricate set of prior

experiences; for most young children the greater part of that experience

occurs within a family context.


research lead to the observation

that certain factors inhibited or disinhibited the child'

performance of the

observed behavior (Bandura, 1977).

For example, a child's

identification with

characteristics of a particular model/actor had a disinhibiting effect on the

child's performance of behaviors displayed by the model/actor.

Not until

cognitive approaches to learning became more common in the late 1960s

the 1970s did media effects researchers begin to explore the intricate

influence of prior experiences and social contexts on children's



, Blumer, in his work Symbolic Interactionism,

voiced serious

reservations about the direction of television effects research.

He addressed

the impoverishment of the effects paradigm in mass media research.

came to this argument well-qualified, as one of the original Payne Fund

researchers and a

"Chicago school" disciple of social psychologist G. H. Mead,

whose ideas formed the foundation of symbolic interactionism.


carefully observe the phenomena they purported to be studying.

emphasized that this type of first-hand observation was not antithetical to

empiricism but was truly empirical and should form the basis of research

grounded in fact.

Blumer (1969) acknowledged that the lack of this first-hand observation

social contexts was attributable to a lack of sponsorship and support for

this type of phenomenological research.

Social science researchers were not

being funded for ethnographic-style field research that did not purpose to

gather inferential statistical findings.

Yet he argued without this rich

foundation of observed phenomena from which to derive meaning,

we cannot

truly understand the complex interactions of media and daily life.

More recently

observational and in-depth interviewing methodologies

have provided traditional effects research with a phenomenologically based

perspective on the interplay of family variables,

television exposure, and


1980). J

's behaviors (Brody & Stoneman, 1983; Reid,

rames Lull (1980),

1979; Reid & Frazer,

a major investigator of family uses of television,

initiated naturalistic

, observational, and in-depth interviewing methods to

determine concrete practices of family interaction around television.


research represented a growing trend toward including how "certain

environmental conditions facilitate the learning of attitudes,


behavior patterns from television by children in preschool and early school


laboratory experiments, and ethnographic/observational research conducted

in natural settings.

The importance of the family, particularly interactions

between children and parents in modifying the influences of television


are well documented by investigations across these methodologies

(Comstock & Paik


However, despite a long tradition of research on

children and media effects

, the challenge of Lazarsfeld's call for "


which would result in ideas as to how the average family can create an

atmosphere which will compete with television" (p.

250) remains to be met.

Parent-Child Interaction about Television

Family variables have been identified as influencing the effects of media

messages on children for more than five decades (Charters,

1933; Desmond et

, 1985; Chaffee, McLeod,

& Atkin




Huston, & Wright,


Schramm et al., 1961)).

Studies examining the relationships


parental mediation and children's

responses to television viewing may be

considered in a variety of ways.

In this review

studies will be discussed

according to methodological categories.

science topic,

In the examination of any social

different methodological approaches contribute complementary

information--from broad societal trends to intimate observations.

These data

may be pieced together to present a more complete understanding of the

subject under inquiry.



, knowledge, and behaviors; these are parental income/social economic

status, education,

and viewing habits (Bower,


Also of interest are

parents' self-reports of their attitudes and behaviors concerning active

mediation of their children's viewing, including nonrestrictive interactions

like conversations about programming and restrictive mediation like

regulating viewing quantities,

and selections (Adler et al.

,1980; Atkin,

Greenberg, & Baldwin, 1991

Yankelovich, 1970).



Parental income correlates to the amount of

nonrestrictive mediation

, with higher incomes associated with greater

nonrestrictive mediation as reported by parents in a survey of 421

Midwestern 5th-

and 10th-grade students and their parents (Atkin et al.,


In the same survey

lower parent income was related to greater

amounts of children

television viewing (Atkin et al.


Children in

African-American families are more likely to be heavier viewers of television

regardless of income (Anderson & Williams,



s' education.

Survey data relating parental education to viewing

are mixed.

Many studies indicate a negative correlation between parent

education and family viewing (Comstock,

1978; Timmer et al.


According to a survey of 219 low-income parents of 2-

to 4-year-old children,

total viewing is negatively associated with education, income,

occupational status (Murphy et al.,


Another survey,



rules about television viewing increases with their education (Medrich et al.,


Family media use.

Viewing habit data are not surprising.

The more

television parents view, the more their children view (Desmond et.


Children of more educated parents watch less adult programming (Murphy et

al., 1991).

Children from single-parent families view more television than

children in two-parent families (Webster, Pearson &




on a Canadian sample of 330 5-

12-year-old children, the more television

sets families have, the more children view alone and the less parents regulate

their viewing (Baron,


But coviewing only modestly predicted any kind

of parental mediation or conversational involvement (Brody et al., 1980


Kovaric, & Doubleday,


Parents and children were observed to touch

more during coviewing than during parent-child playing (Brody et al.

Parental mediation.


As Comstock and Paik (1991) indicated,

assessments of parental mediation patterns from survey and questionnaire

data reveal a paradox. Appr

of mediation are low (Bower,

toward regulating children's

oval for parental mediation is high


while reports

In a survey of consumer attitudes

television advertising,

93% of the respondents

said that they believed it was up to parents to regulate their children'

television viewin

g behavior (Cully


& Atkin


In Corder-Bolz

's (1980) survey of 3,321 Texas families,

52% of parents


watched, and 55% said they often or always talked to their children about

television content.

In a nationwide survey of 2,000 Americans 18 years and older sponsored

by CBS,

less than 50% of parents of children 4-6 years old reported that they

"often" regulated their children's




The survey

included many questions about television limits, including limiting time

spent watching,

regulating what children watched, and changing the channel

when the program was objectionable.

A comparison of data from the


CBS audience survey and earlier versions of the survey conducted in 1960

and 1970 revealed that parents reported slight increases in having rules

about viewing amounts and selections for children 4-9 years old (Bower,


Experimental Studies

Despite the low levels of parental mediation indicated by survey data,

many researchers report positive associations between parents'

and children


learning from and comprehension of televised content.

Parental mediations have been demonstrated to influence children's

gains from television exposure,

and children


behavioral responses to televised content,

's social cognition in regard to televised content.

Cognitive skills.


learning of cognitive skills from television is

enhanced by adult/parental mediations that are relevant to the "lesson."

enhanced by parental interactions during viewing of Sesame Street (Cook,



, Shaffer, Tamkin,

& Weber

, 1975; Lesser,


. Collins et

al. (1981) found that second grade children who watched a drama with an

adult who pointed out implicit plot features scored better on understanding

the narrative than children to whom the adult coviewers made neutral


In a series of laboratory studies by Corder-Bolz (1980),

the effects of

adult mediation on children's cognitive skills and social perceptions were

examined, including reading skills from Electric Company,

perceptions of

gender roles from All in the Family,

and perceptions of violent acts from

Batman (Corder-Bolz,


The author found that the interaction of a


aide regarding reading skills content greatly enhanced the

instructional value of a program for a child, but only with content that

children were ready to learn.

Another study compared children who watched

an All in the Family episode with and without a parent-surrogate mediator

reinforcing the nontraditional

sex roles in the program.

Children were

pretested one week in advance of the viewing session and posttested

immediately and one week after.

Children in the mediated condition scored

highest in acceptance of non-traditional sex roles.


The effectiveness of parental mediation on children's

behavioral responses to television commercials were tested in a laboratory


Children in the experimental condition viewed a program with

one of two toy commercials, either for a very attractive toy or for a less

attractive toy

Mothers were coached to discourage children's

interest in the

toys by either using a power-assertive or a reasoning manner.

When mothers

and sons were rejoined a half hour later, the experimenter left them alone

under the guise of setting up a game for the child. During the "wait,"

mothers presented counter-information about the advertised toy to the child.

Children were then lead into a "toy store" room where they could opt to get

the advertised toy

an unadvertised toy, or cash.

Results indicated that the children whose mothers reasoned with them

were less likely to buy the toy only in the case of the less attractive toy.

Children exposed to the power-assertive counter-argument chose the

advertised toy more often than children in the control condition.



lead to the conclusion that parental reasoning can influence children's

behavioral responses to commercials, but when the product is very attractive

neither parental reasoning nor power-assertiveness are influential and

power-assertiveness parental interactions are not effective regardless of the

toy (Prasad et al.,


Social cognition.

Other studies have demonstrated that social cognition

may be enhanced by parental mediation of television viewing.

When children

were shown prosocial and antisocial programming, children whose mothers


Guiding children as they watch family shows to notice prosocial

interactions can influence the beliefs children hold about how family

members behave in the real world (Buerkel-Rothfuss et al.



encouraging family communication patterns coupled with specific television

rules are associated strongly with children's

visual conventions, plot comprehension, and

(Singer et al.

comprehension of television

I understanding commercials


Another of Corder-Bolz's

(1980) experiments compared children who

viewed the Batman episode with and without a parent-surrogate mediator.

The mediator devalued the violence and discussed alternatives to violence for

solving problems.

When posttested, children in the mediated condition were

less likely to report

that hitting and stealing were all right.

From these

studies Corder-Bolz concluded:

As parents and other adults

verbalize their interpretations and

evaluations of television programs and commercials to their children,

the children will internalize these critical viewing skills,

which can

ultimately make television a more positive part of their lives.


Family communication style. Experimental and survey studies have

been helpful in establishing relationships as well as the cause and effect of

parental mediation on children's outcomes.

These studies reveal the

important influence of family communication styles on children

(Chaffee & McLeod, 19

's media use

A measure of family communication patterns

(FCP) developed by Steven Chaffee and Jack McLeod (1971) has been popular

controversial topics and self-expression is labeled



other dimension which discourages children from expressing anger or

disagreeing with parents is labeled


Despite successes in

establishing correlations between this measure of family communication style

and children

cognitive and behavioral responses to television viewing,

FCP has been criticized as not tapping more "important dimensions of family

interaction" (Alexander, 1990,

p. 212).

Qualitative Studies of Parental Mediation

Dissatisfaction with the limitations of survey and experimental

methodologies for revealing dimensions of family interaction have lead

researchers to investigate with qualitative methodologies.

Messaris and

Sarett (1981) conducted in-depth interviews with 26 parents as a basis for

hypothesis development about parent-child interactions involving television


From these interviews and reviews of previous

studies, they

developed a theoretical framework for studying the relationship between

parent-child interactions about television content and the development of


interpretational skills and behaviors.

Several consequences of parent-child interactions about television were

categorized, including changes in the way the child interprets televised

content, changes in the child's inventory of cognitive categories about the real

world, changes in the child's

pattern of interacting with the environment, and

changes in one or a combination of knowledge,


or attitudes.

Although a systematic approach to testing these hypotheses is lacking,

evidence of the validity of Messaris and Sarett's hypotheses is found

throughout the parent-child and television literature.

In the late 1970s some mass communication researchers began

employing ethnographic methods like naturalistic in-home observation and

in-depth interviews for studying families and mass communications (Brody &



Brody et al., 1980; Lull, 1980; Messais & Sarret,



& Frazer


. These studies contributed detailed, intimate,

empirical data

about the interactions of families around television viewing.

Examples of

children's interactions with parents and siblings about televised content are

included in many of these studies.

These data, by providing observation-

based accounts of family interaction may contribute to the conceptualization

of non-ethnographic studies as well.

Reid and Frazer (1980) used observational techniques to study children

using television in their play

. Their report includes numerous examples of

transcribed interactions between children as they watch television.

examples clearly support their conclusion that co-viewing siblings '

television and its content as social objects" as they play (p




interaction is particularly relevant to the present investigation:


age 5 and Ed,

age 4,

are watching a Saturday morning cartoon


The nroeram is interrupted by 3.

20-second commercials.)

In interviewing Ed and Charles'

parents, the researchers learned that

the parents actively taught their children about the nature and purpose of

television commercials.

The above example shows the older child quizzing

his young sibling about commercials just as he has seen his parents do.

Frazer and Reid took a symbolic interactionist approach to this research,

pointing out that children treat televised content like social objects to be

discussed, interpreted, and manipulated.

principle of social learning theory as we

This example also reflects the

see that the older sibling has learned

the quizzing behavior from his parents and is capable of impressive


Lull (1980) studied

television viewing in the lives

of more than 200

families of varying social economic status.

2 to 7 days with families observing their media use.

Participant-observers spent from

Families were not aware

that observers'

were focusing on media use.

At the end of the observation

period, each family member was interviewed in-depth.

Social uses of

television in the home were categorized as either structural or relational.

Structural uses included using television as an environmental background

and as a way to punctuate time and family activities.

Of interest in the

current investigation are the relational uses of television identified by Lull.

Relational uses refers to the ways that family members use television in their

relationships with one another.

Four types

of relational uses were observed:

Children, for example, use television programs and characters as
primary known-in-common referents in order to clarify issues they


A child often uses television in order to enter an adult

conversation ... by using a television example which illustrates the

point being made by one of the adult interactants.

(p. 202)

Television facilitates conversations by providing a common


that everyone can refer to and talk about.

The conversations

that ensue

around television viewing tend to be prolific but not substantive.

Lull noted,

however, that the advent of more controversial programming in the late

1970s provided opportunities for family members to clarify attitudes and


Some parents used themes and values portrayed in television shows

to help socialize their children into perspectives consistent with their own.

They did this by encouraging or discouraging viewing, informal evaluation,

and discussion.

Another relational use is affiliation/avoidance

which refers to use of

television to enhance or deter interpersonal contact among family members.

Family members touch more while watching television,

television viewing to escape interaction (Lull,

but they may also use


The two relational uses of television most pertinent to parent-child

interaction are social learning and competence/dominance.

some television

In Lull's

programming provided a source of social learning.



encouraged children to watch educational programs that provided lessons in

cognitive skills

Parents also used themes presented in television


viewing by limiting viewing times.

Parental regulation of


's viewing was placed within the category of relational use that Lull

referred to as competence/dominance.

This refers to the opportunities

provided by television programming for family members to demonstrate

competence and dominance in their roles.

For example, parents may limit

and select their children's television viewing to reflect their parental values.

Another way in which television use may enable family members to

display role competence is by referencing to the symbolic portrayals of

television characters as confirmation of parental roles.


some viewers

enjoyed criticizing and correcting newscasters and other "authorities" as well

as pointing out editing incongruities and other technical flaws as a way of

displaying their competence to other family members.

Family members also

used television to dominate others by controlling programming choices or

withdrawing access to television as a punishment.

The categories delineated by Lull (1980) provided a picture of family

communication and television use that confirms the central role of television

in family life and the complexity of family members' interactions around and

about television uses.

The uses of television as a

source of conversational


, social learning, and parental regulation are basic assumptions in

the conceptualization of the present investigation.

For each family


uses vary in proportion and emphasis and patterns of parent-child

A Multi-Method Longitudinal Study

Large scale,

longitudinal research on media effects and children have

sometimes combined survey,

experimental, and ethnographic methods within

studies to refine hypotheses about family influences on children's television

viewing (Lull,

1982; Singer et al., 1988).

'Television and Family Living



," a 3-year longitudinal study conducted by Jerome and Dorothy

Roger Desmond, and their associates combined survey data,

laboratory investigation


and naturalistic observation in preschools and

Data from this study provides important background for the current

investigation and therefore will be described in detail.

From the literature, Desmond et al.

(1985) identified

three categories of

communication that have been observed during and after children view with

others: criticism/interpretation,

rule making,

and disciplinary intervention.

Coviewing between parents and preschool children potentially provides

opportunities for discussing prosocial and cognitive content; however,

coviewing does not necessarily predict these positive mediation and occurs

least often with younger children "who need mediation the most" (Desmond

et al.


, p.49).

The purpose of their work was to discover behavioral and cognitive

consequences of family mediation.

They defined mediation as

"some form of

active effort by parents and others to translate the complexities of the


interested in the relationships between parental mediation/discipline styles

and children

cognitive skills in understanding television.

Their analysis was based on data gathered from 66 urban kindergarten

and first-grade children and their parents who were studied over a 3-year


The authors collected data from parents using a variety of methods,

including 10 days

worth of family diaries detailing all family activities

including media use,

parent-child interaction questionnaires,

questionnaires about media use, media rules,

discipline styles


, parents'

perceptions of their child

's aggressive behaviors,

and a self-report measure of


' resourcefulness.

The children were tested using the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test and

three scales of the Peabody Individual Achievement Test



recognition, comprehension,

and general knowledge.

Children also were

tested on their ability to discriminate between television fantasy and reality,

ability to follow plots, knowledge of television special effects, knowledge of

the purpose of commercials, and perceptions of family television viewing


Open-ended responses to pictures of families interacting in various

situations were elicited from the children.


Observational measures of

's restlessness were made by research staff while children were

"waiting" to be tested at the research center.

In addition, 26 families of the

children rated as the heaviest television viewers were visited by researchers

situations in which parent-child interactions take place.

Two responses to

each situation were described and parents were asked to check the response

that was closest to how they might respond.

Results of the P-C Q yielded a

bipolar factor,

description verses prescription.

Parents who scored high on

the description end of the dimension indicated a preference for explaining,

pointing things out,

and allowing the child to participate in decisions; parents

who scored high on the prescription end of the dimension indicated a

preference for using moral judgment and discipline.


The authors reported

"our sample could be characterized as varying along a dimension

reflecting either a serious effort to discuss and explain the world to children


or one in which the primary modes of communication are

related to control or moralizing (prescriptive)"

(Desmond et al.


, p.469).

To assess parents' disciplinary style, a situation was posed (e.g.,

child talks back to parent) and parents were asked to indicate the likelihood

on a four-point scale ranging from "never" to "usually "of their taking 12

possible disciplinary actions.

Two styles dominated the parental response

patterns: a power-assertive discipline style and a love-withdrawal discipline


High power-assertive responders were characterized as preferring a

rule-oriented, authority-based discipline style.

High love-withdrawal

responders were characterized as using the withdrawal of emotional support

as a discipline method.

child's ability to distinguish fantasy from reality

was negatively correlated with the child'


Descriptive mediation style

total hours of viewing television.

reality versus fantasy scores were related positively to their

IQ scores, their reports of television rules in the home, a power-assertive

parental discipline style,

and descriptive family mediation.


's ability

to discriminate between reality and fantasy was related negatively to amount

of weekly television viewing.


zooms was associated

positively with a power-assertive discipline style, descriptive mediation and

parental resourcefulness.

positively with the mother'


's heavy television viewing was associated

heavy viewing,

little discussion or explanation in

the family, and a large emphasis on psychological discipline.


comprehension scores (based on open recall of a movie they

were shown at the research center) were related positively to parent's

reports of their coviewing guidance and explanation, children's


projection of

mothers' positive comments in response to the projectile test family situation


and children's

reports of parents'


The type of family

environment associated with low comprehension included heavy child and

parent television viewing, low

general mediation,

and a love-withdrawal

form of discipline.

The child

's general information drops as family discussion

lessens and viewing increases.

The best preparation for a child's

the role and function of commercial messages on television,



of the

Results indicated that a family communication pattern of discussion

and explanation in

Year 1 was positively related to several measures of


television comprehension in

Year 2

. When combined with positive-

assertive methods of discipline, descriptive style was related positively to

reading recognition.

Descriptive style was related negatively to children'

hours of viewing and parental assessments of the child's

aggression in Year

The correlational and multiple regression analysis consistently indicated

that a parental style of description versus prescription proved the most

influential independent variable on both cognitive and behavioral dependent


Although this correlational study confirmed a positive association

between parental mediation in children's comprehension of the purpose of

commercials, claims for a causal relationship could not be made.

Data collected as part of this study also were analyzed to determine any

gender differences in relationships between parental mediation and


television comprehension, viewing quantity

and aggression



, Singer & Singer,


In the sample of 66 children,


male and half female

Desmond et al.

(1987) found some significant gender


Relationships between parent-reported television-specific

mediation, general television comprehension, and comprehension of

commercials differed significantly between boys and girls.

The major finding

was that parental mediation correlated significantly more strongly with boys'

high television comprehension were receiving relatively high levels of

parental mediation and that the same was not the case for female subjects.

In addition, negative correlations between parental mediation and children

observed restlessness and aggression were greater for boys than for girls.

One explanation for this finding offered by the authors was that boys have

lower initial levels of television comprehension and therefore more to gain

from high levels of parental mediation.

Studies on Parent-Child Interaction about Advertisine

The relationship between young children's

television advertising

comprehension and parental mediation of viewing has been demonstrated

(Desmond et al


Much research on the effects of advertising on

children was conducted during the 1970s, in response to public controversy

about the ethics of advertising to young children. Among the variables

investigated was the role of parental mediation (Adler et al.



1979; Robertson, 1979

Ward et al



and Wartella

(1977) conducted a study of children's

consumer socialization and television advertising by interviewing 615 parent-

child pairs about family situations related to consumer behavior.


looked to earlier socialization research and determined that "the family is a

more important influence on consumer socialization than television


They took a situational view of children's


combining questionnaire and observational data, provided evidence that

maternal mediation was the single greatest influence on children's

socialization (Ward et al


., 1977).

A laboratory experiment demonstrated that children

's toy purchase

choices could be influenced by prior parental discussion about the toy

(Corder-Bolz & O'Bryant,


An in-home observational study revealed

that children

responses to television advertising could be influenced by

specific parental rules for television viewing behavior (Reid, 1979).

example, not allowing children to ask for products during commercials or to

mimic commercials seems to reduce product requests presumably because it

reduces recall (Reid,


In a review of literature about parental

mediation of television and advertising effects, Robertson (1979) concluded

that "the impact of advertising is a function of a complex set of family,


and situational factors" (p


responses to television advertising were found to be related to

parental discussion about consumption of goods and services (Ward &



parental approval of the advertised product (Atkin, 1978)

and differences in family environment associated with parental education

(Robertson & Rossiter,


A regression analysis suggested that for

kindergarten children,

mother-child interaction is the most important factor

contributing to consumer skill development (Ward et al.,





three progressive levels of comprehension are associated with

's understanding of television advertising, including the ability to

discriminate commercials from programming, an understanding of the selling

intent of commercials, and understanding that commercial messages have

the potential to mislead or deceive the viewer (Comstock & Paik,

Ability to discriminate between programs and commercials.



children have demonstrated the ability to discriminate between programming

and commercials, a skill that precedes the ability to define what a

commercial is (Levin et al.,


In one study

for instance

, subjects were

72 predominantly white preschool children from urban lower-middle class


The researchers showed children a video tape comprising a series of

, 10-second, randomly mixed segments including 7 adult commercials, 14

program segments,

and 7 children's commercials.

Segments were separated

by 3 seconds of black. Children were asked to identify each segment as either

a commercial or a program. Children as young as 3 years old were able to

make the distinction between programming and commercials, and by the age

of 5 most children were able to identify commercials 77% of the time and

programming 67% of

the time.

No significant differences in 3- and 4-year-

old responses were found (Levin et al., 1982).

Although this ability appeared

fairly consistent by age 5 in most children, it did not

reflect children

's ability

to articulate the intent of commercials.

than 8 years old lack comprehension of the selling intent of messages (Paget,


, & Bergemann,


Robertson and Rossiter (19

4) identified the

cognitive factors that precede a child's understanding of intention as the

ability to discriminate between commercials and programming, recognition of

an external source, perception of an intended audience, and awareness of the

symbolic nature of commercials--i.e.

, "the symbolic devises used to enhance

the presentation of the product like idealized settings or dramatized

character emotions" (p.

and experience of discrepancies between the

actual product and the product as advertised.

Robertson and Rossiter (1974) studied children

's ability to attribute

persuasive intent to commercials.

Their sample included 289 first,

third, and

fifth grade boys with social class backgrounds ranging from upper-lower to


Data was collected through child interviews using open-ended


The researchers stated that they were

"dealing with the child'

inferences about what the communicator intends" (p

A pilot study

revealed that children attributed two kinds of intent to commercial messages,



A child expressing assistive intent regarding a

commercial might say

"commercials tell you about things," whereas a child

describing persuasive intent might say

"commercials try to make you buy

things" (p

Almost 53% of first graders and 99% of fifth graders recognized

determinant of persuasive intent recognition.

The results also supported the

conclusion that "the child who is able to discern persuasive intent is less

influenced by advertising in that he is less trusting,

and tends to make fewer consumption requests"

likes commercials


In a study using role-taking ability as a predictor of understanding



, Perloff, and Hawkins (1982) compared the effectiveness

of Piagetian logical operations and role-taking ability as predictors of

understanding the purpose of television commercials.

The authors

hypothesized that understanding the purpose of commercials requires social

cognitive skills more than physical cognition, the focus of logical operations.

The authors assessed first- and third-graders for both their level of

logical operations and their role-taking ability

For the latter they used


's (1971) tool for assessing role-taking ability

. Children were exposed

to television commercials and then assessed for their understanding of the

purpose of the commercials.

Role-taking ability was correlated more highly

than logical operations with understanding the purpose of the commercials,

and both were associated more closely with understanding commercials than

was grade level. TI

experience implied

his finding led the authors to conclude that the social

by role-taking ability may be more predictive of children'

understanding of commercials than age alone.

They also suggested that this

finding has practical implications for accelerating children

understanding of

Understanding deceptive potential of TV commercials.

The most

developmentally advanced level of children's

comprehension of commercials

is understanding the deceptive potential of commercial messages.

Recognition that the commercial message about the product may differ from

the product itself has been used as a criterion for determining understanding

of deceptive potential.

(1974) sample, only 11

Among first-grade boys in the Robertson and Rossiter

2.5% perceived discrepancies between the product and

message. Among fifth-grade boys, however,

discrepancies. This large difference suggest


78.7% realized these

that between the ages of 6 and

understanding that commercials can be deceptive increases


. This understanding has been linked with children

s increasing

ability to engage in recursive thinking.

In a study of children's comprehension of commercials,



Bergemann (1984) employed the concept of recursivee thinking,

to the ability to think about thinking.

" which refers

This ability is particularly applicable

to children's comprehension of the deceptive potential of commercials.

Recursive thinking may simply refer to a 1-loop process of thinking about

thinking, or to the more complex process of thinking about someone else

thinking about your thinking,

referred to as 2-loop recursive thinking (Miller,


& Falvell


Paget et al.

(1984) propose that advertising

situations are "quintessential examples of recursive thinking in its true

advertiser can think about how to manipulate the viewer into buying the

advertised product--e.g.,

by making the product look better than it is in real

Although an early study found that 40% of 11-year-old children could

demonstrate 2-loop recursive thinking (Miller et al.


the literature



, in general,

2-loop recursive thinking is not actualized until

adolescence (Paget et al., 1984).

In their experiment,

Paget et al.

(1984) showed children a commercial

portraying a 10-year-old who bribes his younger sibling into eating his

"healthy" cereal.

The authors wanted to discover how a third party observing

this interaction understands its purpose and implications.

child viewer'

At issue is the

ability to think about how others are thinking about

manipulating them, or 2-loop recursive thinking.

To measure their subjects'

recursive thinking ability, they tested each one individually after showing

them four versions of the cereal-bribing commercial described above.

Questions required subjects to think about the behavior portrayed and about

the thinking behind the portrayal of that behavior.

The authors found that recursive thinking scores were higher for each

successive grade level,

and that the main developmental changes occurred

between kindergarten and third grade for increments in 1-loop recursive

thinking and between sixth grade and college for 2-loop recursive thinking.

Paget et al. conclude that "the development of 2-loop recursive thinking is

strategies used in television advertisements of children's


they do

understand the manipulative intent of the messages (Paget et al.,


Theories that Held Explain How Parent-Child Interaction Helps Preschool

Children Understand

Television Commercials

The review of literature related to parental-interactions and children's

comprehension of advertising suggests that young children learn about

televised content through exposures to the medium and interactions about

that content within their social milieu.


Observational learning,


, and developing social cognitive capacities are key proc


involved in children'


learning about television content, including

Each of these processes has been posited theoretically and

explored experimentally

Social learning theory relates to how children learn

behaviors from watching television as well as to how they learn to watch

television from observing their social milieu.

to how

Symbolic interactionism relates

, through social interactions, children learn to treat televised messages

as social objects that are interpreted through interaction with others.

cognitive theories relate to how children


's mental capacities develop and

facilitate their understanding of both vicarious (e.g

., televised) and real social


Social Learnine

The human capacity for symbolization facilitates learning by observation



Even verve voun children learn pnmnlpx hphaviors from


televised content and the behaviors of others regarding television.


(1977) noted

the advent of television has greatly expanded the range of models

available to children and adults alike

people today can observe and

learn diverse styles of conduct within the comfort of their homes through

the abundant symbolic modeling provided by the mass media.


A second source of observational learning is parents and other family

members mediating and interpreting the meanings of televised symbols

through verbal and non-verbal parent-child interaction.

itself becomes a source of observational learning for the child.

This interaction

How much

television parents watch and what they watch are highly related to children's

quantity of viewing and viewing selections (Murphy et al.


In addition,


' tendency to discount television messages and discuss television

content provide children with models of text interpretation (Lull, 1982).

Social learning theory research portrays children as rapid learners of

behaviors they see on television; children can learn complex behaviors from a

single viewing of a televised model (Bandura & Ross, 1963; Friedrich & Stein,


Although children are seen as actively acquiring behaviors from

observation, their actual performance of these behaviors depends in part on


Performance of learned behaviors from television depends on

intervening social variables like how much the viewer identifies with the

actor and whether or not the actor is observed receiving reinforcements that

are salient to the young viewer.

When the child identifies with the actor,



performer of the behavior and sees the actor receiving rewards like affection

and material possessions rather than punishment like physical harm



The viewer's

identification with the characteristics like


, social class,

and age of a television model,

that carry strong implications of prior social

experiences, have been demonstrated to be a source of associations that

enhance learning from television (Newcomb & Collins,


It is

interesting to note that these are the same intervening variables identified as

modifying the influences of motion picture viewing in the Payne Fund studies


1933) and in the Schramm, Lyle, parker's

Our Children (1961).

In addition, the child viewer'

Television in the Lives

tendency to be

influenced by the actors'

rewards and punishments, implies that the child

has had real experience with those vicarious reinforcers.

Social reinforcers rely on a complex system of internalized attractions,


and responses based on the individual's prior experience.


meanings that these intervening variables have for individual viewers are

implicit within their capacity to reinforce.

The audience brings to these

experiences an intricate history of associations that they have symbolized in

their thought processes.

For one child the image of a race car means going


, for another it may remind him of a tragic accident.

For one child, the

image is a positive vicarious reinforcer, for the other a negative vicarious

determining human behavior (Bandura, 1977)

influence of the individual's

He acknowledged that the

cognitive representations of consequences on

their future behavior could be more powerful than experienced consequences.

As Bandura altered his description of social learning from its operant

conditioning roots to a cognitive conception of learning,

he increasingly

embraced the importance of symbolic representation in the formation of

beliefs and actions.

Although Bandura's

elevation of the importance of

symbolic processes came later in his exploration of human learning, for other

scholars symbolic processes had always held a central role in how they

conceptualized the formation of human thought and action.

Symbolic Interactionism

Mead developed a theoretical description of a process whereby the

meanings of thin

including people, objects and events,

arise from

interactions between people.

Mead saw people,


, and things as "social

objects" to be manipulated like objects,

and their meanings as "social

products," formed through the defining activities of people as they interact.

theoretical approach was coined symbolic interactionism by Mead's

student, Herbert Blumer (Blumer,


Mead based his theory on the

premises that

human beings act on the basis of meaning
learning is derived from interaction with one's

social milieu

meanings can be interpreted and modified through interaction with

clf' and nthpre

(Rhiinmor 1Qtr~

n 9'

bJL.tA t..X~ tV1 ~ U**1j LI.II1 L *S L't' LI _

with one's

social milieu, envisions individuals learning by interacting within

a social context.

This scenario describes children participating in family life.

The activities of family members occur predominantly in response to, or in

relationship to, one another.

a nonverbal level; i.e., "the c

Mead identified two levels of social interaction:

conversation of gestures," and a verbal level; i.e.,

"the use of significant symbols" (Blumer,


, p.8).

The former refers to

interaction that does not rely on the language's verbal symbols but rather

emphasizes actions like the "gestures"

program or turning off the television sf

of changing the channel from a violent

et. These gestures do not rely on

verbal interpretation, but they do convey powerful meanings.

That children

learn behaviors regarding television viewing from parent's viewing selection

and quantity of viewing has been demonstrated repeatedly in studies

showing high correlations between parental and child viewing patterns

(Desmond et al.

Mead's thi:

1985; Timmer et al.

rd premise,


"that meanings can be interpreted and modified

through interaction with self and others," (Blumer, 1969,

p. 2) may be related

directly to parent's

verbal mediation of televised content.

Blumer describes

interpretation as a formative process that uses and revises meanings as tools

for forming and guiding action.

The child who grows up within a social

milieu; i.e.,

a family

where the meanings of television content frequently are

discussed will interpret that content not only based on exposure to the

interpretation and re-interpretation that occur during social interaction.

example, a television commercial's verbal text may declare that a pair of

shoes will enable you to jump higher and run faster, but the parent may

revise that intended meaning and interpret it as hyperbole.

It is this revised

meaning, not the advertisers' intended meaning that guides the parents


her decision whether or not to purchase the shoes when her child

requests them.

Meanings themselves are social products.

Television content

like the

meaning of


and everything has to be formed,



through a process of indication" (Blumer, 1969,

And like any object

indicated through the social process, this content can undergo change in its


Research on parental mediation of television viewing has shown

that pointing out prosocial interactions to children as they watch family

shows influenced what children believed about real world families'

(Buerkel-Rothfuss et al.



In a family milieu where television messages

are discussed and

meanings are interpreted by family members, the child will derive meanings

from family members' interpretation.


understanding of television

and ability to discriminate between reality and fantasy are enhanced by

critical discussions and interpretation of television content in concert with

restrictions on viewing amounts and selections (Desmond,

et al.


programming, parents may impart antisocial meanings to their children

(Desmond et al., 1990).

To better understand the influences of observing family behaviors and

parent-child interactions on children's responses to television viewing,

must go beyond the explanatory power of social learning theory and symbolic

interactionism to include theories that explore the processes whereby

children develop knowledge and skills about social


, a process

known as social cognition.


Social Cornitive Theories

Theories of social cognition share the assumption that individuals

develop sets of cognitive skills that are central to inferring what other people

are thinking,




and what they are like as a person



. Over the past two decades,

information processing and

cognitive models of knowledge acquisition have provided television

researchers with approaches to studying television


's influence on children.

stages of cognitive development were used to predict children

varying abilities in dealing with attention


and logical operations

relevant to television viewing (Bachen,


During the early

1980s several

authors assessing the status of research into children's comprehension of

television called for the inclusion of social cognitive development constructs

in the study of how children understand television (Bachen,



television programming.

Andrew Collins, one on the most prolific

researchers of children's

cognitive process and television,

wrote in


Several questions should be addressed:
social information from typical shows?

How do children represent
What inferences, evaluations,

attributions, and expectations about persons and behavior are formed

during viewing?

Under what conditions are portrayals perceived as

relevant to self and/or others?

How do patterns of social inferences and

evaluations vary across

age periods?


Collins generated this list after a long period of inquiry by

communication researchers who had examined behavioral and cognitive

outcomes from television exposure,

but who generally had not considered how

viewing television interacted with children's developing social reality.

Examinations of the impact of violent programming on children's





, began to yield evidence that effects were mediated by

past experiences (Newcomb & Collins, 1979).

Although overtly

aggressive behavior catalyzed by television has been documented (Singer &



it is children'

individual and social differences, not selective

television exposure,

that seem to mediate whether or not the child

television viewing will be followed by aggression. The research that evolved

from the cognitive approach suggested that children's comprehension of

television content is embedded in social experiences and cognitive

development "from which

knowledge and expectations about persons and

events are built" (Collins, 1983,


Young children's

major social

experience is their family interaction; thus the influence of family members'

This broader approach requires a framework for studying social
inferences from television in which responses to characters, actions,
events are examined as a function of viewers' knowledge and


within the general constraints imposed by developmental

individual capabilities for acquiring,

retaining, and retrieving


information (p.


Thinking and knowledge about oneself and others as individuals,


between people, social customs,


and institution may all

be included in the consideration of

social cognitive development (Flavell,


, & Miller, 1993).

The ability to differentiate and coordinate one's


social perspectives and those of others,

both cognitively and emotionally,

develops from early childhood (Flavell et al.,


Until recently,


development among 1- and 2-year-old children tended to be ignored as a topic

for study (Dunn


Dunn attributes this omission to developmental

psychologists' past Piagetian bias.

the child develops.

Understanding becomes more explicit as

The more familiar the interaction, the more likely that

the child will be observed demonstrating understanding of the causes of

emotions in other family members (Dunn,


Just as new observations reveal that Piagetian descriptions of young


cognitive capacities may be underestimations (Dunn,



observations of children in relation to television viewing suggest that young

children can understand television with far greater

previously noted (Wolf, 1984).

sophistication than

At the age of 4 some children understand the

hn.icS orf tplpvi sinn ennvpntinn.q rpmarlcnhlv wpll- fnr ornmnlop nn 4-vpnr-nld

Shows things, something like who makes it and all that.

the letters

, they spell the names, the people we don't see,

we see on the show

By school age,

(Wolf, 1984,

You can see all
but the ones

p. 254)

children's prior experiences accumulate,

and they begin to

understand that television reality differs from the real world (Wolf, 1984;

Woolley & Wellman


Their experience with the conventions and

messages of televised content, like advertising, have also accumulated.

Young children

understanding of television advertising reflects a

progression of comprehension from the simple ability to discriminate between

commercials and programming,

to understanding the purpose /intention of


, to understanding advertising'

deceptive potential.

prerequisite for understanding intent and deceptive potential is that the

child grasp that another person has thoughts and that these thoughts may be

different from her own. This capacity is referred to as theory of mind.

Having grasped this concept, the child can understand that the people who

make the televised message may have some intent,

and that intent may be to

influence her behavior.

Any understanding of television must involve understanding the nature

of symbolic representation (e.g

., that a moving picture may represent the real


while not being the real thing).

This capacity is referred to as the

ability to make an appearance-reality distinction.

This understanding,

understanding of television commercials.


As the child acquires these

, they are able to apply it to all aspects of their environment,

including the source of symbolic images that typically commands their

attention three hours a day--television.

When a child combines the understanding of the difference between

appearance and reality and the understanding that other people have



and feelings different from their own

they may begin to

understand that the people who make the commercial messages have

intentions that may affect them (the children).

Then, as children grasp the

more complex theory of mind development--that others can have thoughts

about their own (the children's) thinking (i.e.,

two-loop recursive thinking)

and that these others can manipulate reality to deceive the viewer--children

may come to understand the deceptive potential of commercial massages.

Studies examining young children's

theory of mind help elucidate how these

capacities develop.

A basic development in a child'

theory of mind is a capacity for

understanding that one stimulus may be understood in more than one way

e.g., that an image represents a thing but is not the thing.

For example,

image on television of a horse may be thought of as a real horse,

coveted, or as a television image to be turned off.

to be

Flavell and his associates

static objects like a balloon and popcorn in a bowl,

all seen on a television


would come out of the television if the top were removed.

While the

majority of 3-year-old children said "y

es" to the questions about what things

can do (affordance questions),

the majority of 4-year-old children said


Children also were asked if these objects could be touched and if they were

pictures or real.

The majority of 3-year-old children said that the image on

the television set was a picture rather than real.

In their discussion

, Flavell et al. (1990) claim that almost all 4-year-old

children gave clear and consistent evidence of understanding that the things

they see on television are not actually present as solid 3-dimensional objects

inside the set.

This difference is thought to be due to a cognitive development

during which the child shifts from seeing a represented object as isolated

from any referent to their gaining understanding of mental representation.

By mental representation it is meant the ability to understand that images in

the mind refer to objects in the real world.

When the child has the capacity

for understanding the representational nature of the mind, she understands

that the representation is not real,

and she can talk about it.

A further sophistication of the capacity to understand mental

representation is the ability to understand that something can be

represented in two ways that may be contradictory

. This capacity has been

child to understand that there can be more than one interpretation of how

things are (Flavell,


& Miller


The child comes to comprehend not only that representations exist but

that what is represented may not correspond to what is real.

They also come

to understand that the way something is represented in one person's

may not be the same as the way it is represented in someone else's m

Young children



's emerging ability to think of a single referent in more than

one way has been demonstrated in empirical studies involving a variety of


These include understanding that another person'

visual perspective

yields a

different view than one's

own (Flavell, Everett,


, & Flavell,

1981), that the same person who appears mean in a photograph may be very

nice or visa versa (Flavell,



& Flavell


that a person

may hold a belief and act on a belief that is false (known as false-belief)

(Wimmer & Perner, 1983),

that a physical object may appear more than one

way (e.g.,

a glass of milk may appear red through a red gel,

but is actually

white) (Flavell,


& Green


Role-taking is another aspect of understanding that a single stimulus

may be seen more than one way.

Role-taking ability is defined as "the

activity of and/or ability to take the position of another person and thereby

infer his perspective"



, p.264).

Selman (19

1) described role-

taking as understanding the nature of the relation between one's



programming and advertising, particularly to inferring motives of characters,

causes of action (Durham, 1984),

and the intentions of advertisers (Faber et

., 1982).

The child's developing theory of mind includes coming to understand

that a person may hold a false belief. This understanding is central to the

concept of deception (Chandler & Hala,


A controversy exists over

when children begin to understand deception with suggestions ranging from

2 1/2 (Chandler and Hala, 1991) to 5 to 6 years of age (Wimmer and Perner,


Chandler and Hala devised a hide-and-seek game that allowed young

subjects actively to misinform their opponents if they wanted.

Children could

lay down false footprints leading to hidden treasure and wipe away the

tracks to mislead their opponents as to where a treasure was hidden. C



5-year-old children,

50% carried out a deception,

and 20% verbalized the


Further experiments confirmed that the young children

understood that their deception would lead their opponents to erroneously

thinking about where the treasures was hidden (Chandler & Hala,


Determining whether we are being told the truth or a lie simply from

observing the communicator requires abilities more complex than the

demands of Chandler and Hala's


Children and adults alike have great

difficulty in determining whether they are being told a lie simply from


addition, they must be able to entertain a mental representation of others as

holding false beliefs (Rotenberg, 1991).

Despite preschool children'

ability to carry out and understand the

consequences of their own deliberate deception, most children do not seem to

understand the deceptive potential of a television commercials until much

later in their development (Robertson & Rossiter,


This may be

because commercials are constructed with every effort to convey the

appearance of the truth.

Until children's prior experience includes repeated

opportunities to verify advertising claims against reality or to experience

interactions among their family and peers that question and discredit the

commercials' claims

, they have insufficient cues that the message is not


Previous Intervention

to Encourage Parental Mediation

of Children

's Television


Although constructive mediation of children

's television viewing appears

to be strongly associated with desirable outcomes for children, the results of

interventions to

encourage parents to mediate their children

viewing are

mixed at best (Greenberg,

Abelman & Cohen

,1990; Heald,

1980; Matthews,


In one of the more successful interventions, a self-selected sample of

64 elementary and 43 middle school students were interviewed at school

about their viewing preferences and behaviors.

Parents of these children

were interviewed by phone about their rearing practices,

their perceptions of


Parents were randomly assigned to one of three experimental conditions

or a control grot

viewing guide.


Parents in the experimental groups were sent a television

One group received a guide listing only programs with only

large amounts of violent content or other antisocial programming.

Recommendations to forbid children to watch these programs were included.

Another group received a guide with only prosocial programming along with

recommendations to encourage child viewing of these programs,

and a third

group received a guide with a mix of antisocial and prosocial programming

that encouraged prosocial and discouraged antisocial viewing.

mailed to parents once a week over a six-week period.

Guides were

Parents were not

aware that two months later children would be interviewed to determine

their viewing during the experimental period.

When interviewed, children indicated that parents in the treatment

conditions made significantly more programming recommendations than

parents in the controlled condition.

Parents who received the antisocial list

discouraged antisocial viewing more than parents who received both

antisocial and prosocial lists.

Parents who received the prosocial list only

discouraged antisocial viewing more than either of the other groups.

Other attempts to help parents increase mediation have been less


Parents who received television guides that included reviews of

the programming and recommendations of good viewing selections for

_ ..

mailed information to parents about the content of each lesson.

The mailed

materials included suggestions for implementing strategies to regulate and

mediate their child


A comparison of responses on a questionnaire


parental mediation and family communication patterns between

control subjects who were not mailed the material and experimental group

parents who were mailed the material showed no differences on measures of

knowledge about effective parental strategies and self-reported parental

mediation carried out during the experimental period.

Parent Intervention

The most essential element of preparing children to succeed in school

has been identified as responsible parents and a health-nurturing home-life



Moore 1990; Wikeland, 1990).

Although most everyday

interactions between parent and child are not explicitly instructional,

children constantly seek the meaning,


and connotation of everything

around them (Rogoff,


Studies in a variety of cultures reveal that

adults spontaneously guide children

's participation by building on the child'

perspective and adjusting adult concepts to reach children's




Vygotsky saw this type of social interaction as central to


development and described intellectual development as a process of

learning to use intellectual tools through social interaction.


interaction and guidance provided by people who have achieved some skill,

- .. .- n *. .

Similarly, parents are well positioned to guide and nurture their child's

acquisition of skills as active, interpreting,

selective television viewers.

The "zone of proximal development" describes children


abilities that lend themselves to enhancement through parental or adult

interaction or apprenticeship.

Social interaction and guided participation are

central to enhancing those abilities in the zone of proximal development.


's skills may build rapidly through routine "guided participation in

ongoing cultural activities" as they (children) observe and participate with

others (Rogoff, 1990, p.16).

An effective method for facilitating the

apprenticeship process

is to respond to the child'

point of focus and then

engage the child in dialog relevant to their immediate point of interest.

Studies have demonstrated that this approach leads to greater skill building

than a didactic one (Rogoff,


Cognitive processes that occur initially on the social plane and then

through interaction with others are eventually internalized.

Shared thinking

in "intersubjective communication" appears to be key to this process (Rogoff,


. Cultural activities become internalized after children have practiced

thinking and problem-solving in a social context.

Social interaction with a

parent or older sibling enables the younger child to participate in skills she

could not handle on her own.

With exposure to this shared process the young

child begins to internalize the interaction she had with more skilled

Television viewing,

which has traditionally been thought of as passive,

does not connote the acquisition of skills.

But the possibility of developing

active viewing skills through a parent-child apprenticeship emerges when

television viewing is conceptualized as involving active processes like

selection and interpretation.

The active child viewer selects and uses

television for her own purposes (Shramm et al.,

1961) and processes

narratives according to her own preexisting cognitive structures drawn from

her prior experiences (Collins,


In addition

the active child viewer

engages in the

"intensely active process"

of interpreting and re-interpreting

verbal and visual televised texts (Hodge & Tripp, 1986,

Through an apprenticeship process,

parents and older siblings may

scaffold younger children's

ability to view television actively

. This

apprenticeship may be conceptualized to include three components,

each of

which is related to a theoretical approach:

Children model parental behaviors like viewing selection and



. This behavioral modeling is described by social learning theory.

Parents and children treat televised messages as social objects and

interpret/reinterpret their meanings.

This process of interpreting symbols

and deriving meaning through this interpretative process

is described by

symbolic interactionism.

(3) Through social cognitive proc


, children develop a theory of mind;

- ..


comprehension and interpretation of televised content is

enhanced by interaction with adults (Buerkel-Rothfuss et al.,

1982; Corder-



In general,

encouraging parents to develop interaction with their

children about televised content supports the idea that benefits of social

interaction derive from shared thinking in intersubjective communication



But parents do not necessarily engage in this type of concept-

enhancing dialog with their children (Desmond et al.


They may never

have observed this type of interaction with small children.

Among low-


, African-American populations,

one of the general barriers to parent

involvement in children's learning has been identified as limited views of

parental involvement (Moore, 1989).

For parents to carry out television mediation strategies

requires not only

that they gain specific knowledge but also that they transform that

knowledge into action.

The transformation of knowledge into appropriate

action may be described by a model for self-efficacy (Bandura, 1986).


tend to avoid tasks and situations that they feel they are not capable of

handling successfully (Bandura


Seeing oneself as capable actually

increases one's participation in activities that help one become more



, seeing oneself as inadequate leads to avoidance of

activities in which one could develop competencies (Bandura,



cautions that despite a perception of being able to perform a task

The mechanism for transforming knowledge to action first involves a

process of verifying the validity of one'

thoughts about what to do.

several avenues by which this verification occurs,

including: (a)

There are



's thoughts about what to do with one's

actual experience,

(b) watching

what others do--this includes vicarious experiences like watching a video,

(c) listening to what experts say about what to do.

process refers to formulating beliefs.

The thought verification

What people believe shapes and

determines how they behave, how they think, and their emotional response to

difficult situations (Bandura,


Parents who believe that television

programming is harmless are less likely to mediate their children's


than parents who see televised content as potentially harmful (Bybee,


Turow, 1982).

Surveys of low income parents whose children were enrolled in Head

Start revealed high levels of knowledge about appropriate viewing selections

for preschool children and the desirability of regulating young children

viewing (Matthews, 1991,


Lack of performance may not be due to lack

of knowledge but due to a lack of resources (Bandura,


For example,

study of family ecologies and television viewing revealed that in families with

more family stress,

young children viewed less

programming and in families with less child care, children watched more

cartoons and other children's entertainment programming (Murphy et al.,

*1 -*1 1

Although parents may feel that they know how to mediate their
S1 1 1 f'* i 1 P J .... -" .... .. .

"child inform ative"


No matter what a person believes about the action he or she should take,

if the person does not have the subskills and resources necessary for

successful performance he/she will not be successful (Bandura, 1986).

Perhaps parents report that they favor regulation of their children

's viewing

and also report low levels of regulation because they actually lack some

subskill or have not associated an existing subskill,


the ability to interact

with the type of parental mediation that has been demonstrated to

be most effective (Desmond, et al.


Lack of incentives and resources

also may reduce performance (Bandura


Both of these deficiencies

may be addressed through an educational process.

resources like alternative stimulation, child care,

high family stress (Murphy et al., 1991), which al

Meanwhile, lack of

secondary support,

re side-effects of poverty

deeply rooted problems that relate to United States society'

structural issues

and probably will not be ameliorated through educational interventions



Rationale for an Intervention

Are parents' long-established parental mediation patterns and

discipline styles the determinants of whether or not children can be educated

by their parents about the medium?


Can parents'

television viewing be influenced by train

mediation of their

ring? If parents are

provided with opportunities to enhance their self-efficacy concerning their

ability to mediate their child

's television viewing,

will this

exposure manifest


a workshop format was selected because Head Start parents are

familiar with this method of receiving information.

In addition

workshop setting is conducive to incorporating elements of Bandura

efficacy model (e.g.,

's self-

the benefits of individuals observing each other's

learning experiences).

The workshop was designed to include these components from


(1986) model for fostering self-efficacy.

(1) Vicarious experience via

(a) Viewing a video featuring a mother--whose demographics are highly

concurrent with the majority of participating parents (i.e.



African-American mother)--successfully mediating her children'


(b) Observing other parents role-playing the behavior being learned

Self-efficacy appraisals are partly influenced by vicarious


Seeing or visualizing other similar people

perform successfully can raise self-percepts of efficacy in
observers that they too possess the capabilities to master

comparable activities (Bandura,


,p. 399)

(2) Verbal persuasion via

(a) Credible expert sources presenting information about the

benefits to their child of mediating television viewing; i.e.,


discussing developmental issues re: children and television

(b) Discussion from other parents

Social persuasion alone may be limited in its power to create

enduring increase in self-efficacy

, but it can contribute to


En active attainments provide the most influential source of
efficacy information because it is based on authentic mastery of

experience (Bandura,



The success of an intervention of this sort would imply that family

mediation patterns may be modified to improve children

understand the nature of television content.


ability to

Parent training may increase

' ability to convey their interpretations and their values vis-a-vis

television content to their young children.

These interactions could help their

children become active viewers; i.e., able to treat television content as social

objects to be interpreted and reinterpreted rather than as messages or

sensations to be received passively

As discussed earlier, this active

interpretation renders children less vulnerable to content that promotes

values and behaviors that are objectionable to parents and ultimately to

society (Desmond et al.,


Only within a controlled experimental framework could the effectiveness

of an intervention of this nature be adequately assessed. In light of this

requirement and the previous discussion,

the following research questions

were warranted.

The Hvyotheses

Survey and observational data confirm the relationship between

parents' mediation of children

comprehension of content. Pa

television viewing and children

rents and other significant adults may engage

child's grasp; i.e., in their zone of proximal development.

Although television

viewing is not generally considered a skill that must be taught to children,

active viewing does require skill and knowledge.

These skills and knowledge

may be imparted to children through a parent-child interaction that takes

advantage of several relevant learning processes.

Observational learning acts as a building block of this active viewing

knowledge and skill.

Children model parental viewing habits and

interactions about television.

In addition, the child

learns that television

messages can be treated like objects--social objects to be manipulated

through a process of interpretation and re-interpretation.

Through this

interpretative process meanings are constructed and assigned.

By parental

example and with active parental mediation, children not only learn new

ways to frame televised content but also learn to model an interpretive rather

than a passive approach to televised content.

The parent also may take advantage of the child's

developing social

cognition when teaching active viewing to their child.

For example,

as the

child learns that others have thoughts that may differ from his or her own,

parents can point out television characters and the thoughts they express.

Thus, theory of mind concepts may be advanced by parents who employ

television as a source of social experience.

Parents also may challenge the

ideas conveyed on television and demonstrate to young children that the way

A practical test of the notion that parental mediation can increase


's knowledge and skill as active viewers requires choosing one area of

television content to influence.

In the case of this investigation,

understanding of televised commercials has been chosen.

This test also

requires that the occurrence of parental mediation not be left to chance.

Parents must be prepared for mediating and encouraged to engage in this

activity with their child.

To test the effectiveness of these circumstances the

following hypotheses are advanced.

On measures of children

's abilities to distinguish commercials from

programming, children whose parents attended the experimental workshop--

i.e., received training and encouragement in mediating their children's

television advertising viewing--will demonstrate significantly greater time 1

to time 2 increases on measures of children's

ability to distinguish between

programs and commercials than children whose parents attended the control


Children whose parents attended the experimental workshop--i.e.,

received training and encouragement in mediating their children's


advertising viewing--will demonstrate significantly greater time 1 to time 2

increases on measures of children's

ability to understand the intent of

commercials than children whose parents attended the control workshop.

Children whose parents attended the experimental workshop--i.e.,


potential of commercials than children whose parents attended the control


Given the importance of parental mediation in advancing these

hypotheses as well as evidence from earlier survey research linking parents

with a discussion-oriented mediation style and a power-assertive discipline

style with their children's

high comprehension of television (Singer et al.,

1988), the question must be asked--

Will parent'

preexisting tendencies to

discuss and explain televised content to their children and to assertively

regulate their children's television viewing interact with their training in

television mediation? And will the effect of this interaction be evidenced by

their children

's larger pre- to posttest increases on the dependent variables

To answer this question,

the following hypothesis was advanced.

Children whose parents' are assessed (via self-report measures) as

having a mediation style characterized a

"descriptive" and a disciplinary style

characterized as "power-assertive" will demonstrate a significantly greater

increase in scores from time 1 and time 2 on the dependent variables than

children whose parents have a "prescriptive" mediation style and a "love-

withdrawal" disciplinary style.

In another related study,

researchers found an interaction between

parental mediation and the child's gender (Desmond et al.,


Authors of

this earlier study found that television-specific mediation is more effective for

gender to demonstrate the highest television comprehension scores (among

boys) for boys whose parents are frequent mediators.

indicated that the same will not be true for girls. Ba

The previous research

sed on this earlier

finding the following hypothesis is advanced.

Boys whose parents score high on a measure of descriptive

mediation of television with their child will demonstrate significantly larger

pre- to posttest increases in scores from time 1 to time 2 on measures of

television advertising comprehension than girls whose parents score high on

a measure of descriptive mediation.


Rationale for this Study

In the current study

income parents,

an experiment was devised to investigate if low-

with encouragement and training in mediation of their

child's television viewing, could influence their preschool children

understanding of television advertising.

The children in this study were

approximately 5-years old and were enrolled in Head Start,

program which bases eligibility on low family income. Pare

occurred in special parent workshops.

an educational

ntal training

In addition to examining the effect of

parental exposure to specific training on their children's

television comprehension,


the researcher explored the influences of

individual parental mediation and disciplinary style differences on children

television comprehension.

The content targeted for parent mediation was advertising.

This choice

of television advertising was based on the practical need to narrow the focus

of parent's mediation efforts for experimental purposes.

Commercials were

chosen because they are a discrete, distinctive content with an explicit

purpose and less

ambiguity than general programming content with its

Evidence of parental concern about the negative effects of children's

exposure to television content, the potential positive influence of parental

mediation on children

television viewing,

and the documented lack of that

activity suggested the need to determine whether or not efforts to increase

parental mediation of children

comprehension of television content.

viewing could improve children

Although ethnographic methods

employing naturalistic in-home observations to establish a baseline of

parental mediation may be ideal, a less time- and resource-consuming

method was desirable.

The current study attempts an intervention approach.

A parent workshop brought parents together to learn specific strategies for

mediating their children's television viewing and specifically their children

understanding of television advertising.

Parents received support to increase

their knowledge and skills in mediating their preschool child's




The subjects for this study were drawn from a sample frame of students

and their parents/caretakers enrolled in the Head Start program of Alachua



, during the 1993-1994 academic year.

Alachua County,

located in north central Florida, has a population of approximately

The county is made up of rural towns,


unincorporated areas, and one

metropolitan area which includes the city of Gainesville (population 85,587).


Head Start is a federally funded preschool program designated to serve

low-income children between the ages of 4- and 5-years with pre-

kindergarten education during the academic year prior to the child'



Head Start classrooms may be located in both private and

public schools.

Teacher training, curricula,

classroom logistics, supervision,

classroom size, and parent involvement criteria are all regulated by federal

guidelines and administered by local school boards.

Alachua County Head


tart enrollees are drawn from low-income

A screening committee places children in the program based on

documented need.

special needs, tho,

A high priority is given to single parents,

se who have teenage parents,

children with

and those living in isolated

areas of the county.

Eligibility is based on the severity of financial need as

determined by United States poverty and free/reduced lunch guidelines.


71% of the 739,

4-5 year old children in the program are of

African descent,

and the remaining 33% of students are of European,


native American

and Asian descent.

Approximately 77% of the

children are from single-parent families.

Schools for this study were selected by the Alachua County Head Start


Six of the classrooms, three per school

were located in two public

elementary schools located in Gainesville.

Two additional classrooms were

located in the public elementary school for the town of Hawthorne, a rural


The potential participants of this study were comprised of 152 students-

parent/caretakers combinations from eight Head Start classrooms from three

Alachua County public elementary schools.

The Head Start administration

provided initial arrangements to use these three schools of their choosing.

the total 152 student-parent/caretaker combinations from these eight Head

Start classes

,45 participated fully in the study

In order to fully participate,

parent/caretakers had to sign and return consent forms for their child to be

pre- and posttested.

The child had to be pre- and posttested, and the

parent/caretaker had to attend a specially scheduled workshop at their



In addition to the 45 students whose parents/caretakers did

attend a workshop,

27 students for whom parental permission was obtained

but whose parents did not attend a workshop were also pre- and posttested

and formed a group of nonrandom controls; their responses were included

with the responses of children whose parents did attend workshops in survey

data gleaned

from pre-test only results.

A total of 80 children were pretested.

Of these

, eight were eliminated

from the study

four due to their difficulty in responding verbally during the

pretest interview

three due to their lack of knowledge of English,

and an

additional child because a teaching assistant accompanied her in the testing


This subject was the only student who was tested with a teaching

assistant present.

According to the interviewer,

the teaching assistant's

years of age) with a standard deviation of 4 months. Of

whose parent/caretakers participated in the workshops,

18 male

the 45 children

were female and

Of the parent/caretaker workshop participants there were 35

mothers, 3 fathers,

2 mother-father dyads,

3 grandmothers,

2 aunts

and one

foster parent.


Head Start parents/caretakers were introduced to information and

techniques about mediating their children's television advertising viewing via

parent workshops; i.e., the intervention.

The difficulty of ascertaining

differences in parental mediation before and after the workshops without

naturalistic observation and without relying on parental self-report was

overcome by measuring changes in children's

cognitive skills regarding

television advertising before and after the parent workshop.


measurement was accomplished through pre and posttesting/interviewing

with the children about their understanding of television commercials.

Informed Consent

In order for Head Start students to participate in the study,

parents had

to sign and return an informed consent form. This consent form complied

with the requirements of the University of Florida's Internal Review Board.

Teachers were given forms to be sent home with children two weeks prior to

the week targeted for interviewing.

Two additional notices were sent home

Pretest/Intervention/Posttest Schedule

Children were pretested at their school.

Children at each of the three

schools were interviewed during respective two-week periods. Pretest

interviewing of children at School A occurred between February 15 through

Parents of School A children attended a workshop at their child'

on February 26.


During the third week after their parents attended the

workshops, children from

School A were posttested.

Children from School B

were interviewed from February 22 through March 3

attended the parent workshops on March 5.

their parents attended the workshops, child

Parents from School B

During the third week after

Lren from School B were


After the completion of the workshops at School A and B,

it was

determined that the number of parent participants was not high enough to

adequately carry out the intended statistical analyses for this investigation.


, a third school (School C) with two Head Start classrooms was

added to the study

. This was a school located in Hawthorne, a rural

community in Alachua County

March 28 and April 13. Paren

. Children at School C were pretested between

ts attended the parent workshop on April 26.

Children from School C were posttested during the third and fourth weeks

subsequent to their parents attending the workshop.


Random Assignment

Parents who attended the workshops were assigned randomly to

number, the research assistant proceeded vertically down the column.


the number was an even number, the parent was assigned to the

experimental workshop; when it was an odd number,

assigned to the control workshop

to begin,

the parent was

As the time approached for the workshops

the research assistant made sure that the numbers of participants

in each of the two workshops was even within three individuals.

When the

numbers of participants in each workshop appeared off by more than three,

the random number assignment method was replaced by the method of

assigning incoming parents alternately to each of the two workshops.

Independent Variables

Parents self-selected to attend the parent workshops.

were sent home to parents via their children encouraging t

attend the workshop.

Several flyers

;he parents to

Many of the Head Start teachers spoke to parents on

the phone and in person to encourage them to attend.




and food were offered to facilitate attendance.

Approximately two to three weeks after the completion of protesting at

each of the three schools

, two two-hour parent workshops,

experimental and


were scheduled

on three respective dates.

The workshops at School

A and Bwere held on a Saturday mornings and at School C on a Tuesday


Times for the workshops

were determined by informally polling

some parents and teachers about preferred days and times.

ExnPrimental Condition


coordinator with responsibility for supervising several Head Start teachers.

This individual frequently interacted with Head Start parents as part of her

duties and contracted independently with the researcher to conduct these


She was chosen on the basis of her experience in communicating

with the target population. She received instruction from the researcher on

the format and content of the experimental workshops.

In addition to the workshop leader,

the experimental workshop was

attended by the researcher who delivered information about research

findings that related to strategies for parental mediation and helped

emphasize the importance of parental meditation of children

's television


The experimental workshop introduction.

At the same time parents

were assigned to a workshop by the research assistant,

she gave them a

group of questionnaires which were preceded with the parents' identification


This number corresponded with their child'

identification number.

Then parents were instructed to enter the designated classroom.


settings for both experimental and control workshops were Head Start

classrooms, which are by design highly similar in size and layout.

A food buffet was provided for the parents in each workshop.


workshop leader pointed out the food and asked parents to work on their

questionnaires as they entered the workshop classroom.

The food was

arrive and the workshop leader introduced herself and asked parents to

introduce themselves.

Presentation of background information.

The workshop leader began

the program by giving basic background facts about children's television


This information had been prepared in advance by the researcher

and rehearsed by the workshop leader.

The following script outlines the

material covered by the workshop leader.

Do you worry about TV? Children watch almost 20,000 hours before the

end of high school.

What can parents do to protect their children from the

violence and other bad influences of TV?

It's very important to be selective about what the)' watch, and it

important to put limits on their viewing--but let' s face it, children will

things on TV that we wish they didn 't--if not at your own house, at the homes

of friends and relatives.

Good family communication works like a vaccination against what the

things kids see on TV. Research shows that telling young children about

television is the single best thing parents can do to protect their children from

negative TV influences.

That love and warmth, and the time you take to sit

down and talk about what they have seen, protects them.

Telling your child your views about what is on TV is the inoculation

which protects your child from harmful effects of TV.


At this Head Start age they are just beginning to understand things

which are very important to understanding just what TV is all about.

Developmental background presentation. Denise will talk about why 4-5

years is such a good age for child to begin to understand what TV is all about-

-that it is not always real and that what you see on a TV commercial is not

always what you get.

The workshop leader then turned the presentation over to the

researcher who presented information about the developmental

appropriateness of talking to 5-year-old children (the average age of the Head

Start children) about television advertising.

The following is the script she


At four and a half, most children are just learning that what you see is

not always what you get. In other words, up until four or five years children

have a hard time believing that what they actually see with their eyes and

hear with their ears can be different than what they see and hear, whether

different to someone else who sees and hears it differently, or is different when

its on television than in real life.

Until they are around four and a half, it

hard for them to understand that the toy on television may look better on

television than in real life. But now at this preschool age, they are beginning

to understand that just because something looks one way to them it may not

really be that way. For example, they see a three-colored yogurt on television.


Before the ages of four and five, most children cannot really understand that

one thing can be two ways--look good and taste bad.

Also this is the age when they are beginning to understand that someone

can intentionally fool them or that they can intentionally lie to someone else.

They are just

beginning to get

the idea behind lying for a purpose.

This idea

is important for them to get before they can understand what television

commercials are all about. It is hard for them to grasp that someone may try

to make the toy seem better than it really

it or have their parent buy it for them.

This is a complex idea for a pre-K child, but

being able to understand.

they are just on the edge of

That is why we asked you to come here today--

because they are ready to learn this


But they need help to learn and that

help has to come from you at home.

Also, young children are often very frightened by things on television

which they cannot understand; and if we don't talk to them about

we may not know that they are very scared.


Movies, adult movies, and horror

movies are really bad for kids

this age.

Some adults report that they were

terrified by movies like the Fly when they were little.

Maybe you remember

being scared by something you saw on television when you were real little.

One very interesting research study showed that kids whose parents

received more than one movie channel did not do as well as other children on

in order to make them want to buy

Viewing the video.

Today we are going to learn how to talk to our kids

about television--how to become active viewers and

show kids how to be active


so they won't be


harmed by television.

by watching this video made just for this workshop which


into all of this.


a seven minute video

"Family Vie

was shown.

The purpose of

this video was to model parental mediation of television viewing.

The family

featured in the video was comprised of a mother, a 5-year-old male child with

an 8-year-old female sibling and an 11-year-old male sibling.

The video tape

showed the whole family participating in choosing television programs they

wanted to watch together by looking at a TV Guide.

They then viewed a

segment of televised violence which the mother and older siblings challenged

as being an unrealistic portrayal of violence.

commented on a toy commercial. The older s

about the intent of the commercial. Then th

"Reading Rainbow" together. The tape concl

Then they watched and

siblings quizzed the 5-year old

ey watched a segment of

uded with the family playing

music together to portray family activities as an alternative to TV viewing,

and a visual review of the major points made regarding mediating children's

viewing (see

Appendix A for "Family Vie

ws" video


Group discussion.


, the workshop leader initiated a group

discussion which followed this outline.

Discuss importance of showing your child how to

be an active

viewer by

a. Explainii

Pointing out

c. Discussing what your child sees on television with them.

The workshop leader emphasized that television can be used as a source

of experience which you can talk to your child about.

She also emphasized the importance of teaching your child what a

commercial is by (a) making sure that when a commercial comes on the child

knows that the commercial is telling them to buy something (i.e.. cereal,


or a toy)

(b) pointing out how commercials make things look better

than in real life; and (c) explaining why the people who make the product

may want to make the product look better on television than in real life.

The workshop leader also emphasized that you can talk about television

anytime, not just when you or your child is watching television.

She also

urged parents to contrast television violence with real violence--to continually

teach their children the differences and to use examples from real life when

they or someone around them was hurt or in pain.

Role-play activity.


, the workshop leader introduced a group

activity to the participants.

Parents were shown two toy commercials.


each one they were asked to find a partner and to role play either being a


parent was charged with refusing to buy it by explaining why this was not a

good toy

or a realistic portrayal of the toy.

The second commercial showed a young white female with white triplet


In the role play parents were charged with pointing out that this toy

would be too expensive for their family to purchase and would be a waste of


Parents were also encouraged to challenge values portrayed in both

commercials if they did not agree with them.

Parents were given time to

rehearse their role plays and then were asked to repeat them for the group.

At the completion of the role play exercise, the workshop leader gave a

"pep talk"

to encourage parents to mediate their preschool child

over the next two weeks.

She also passed out "TV Diaries"

's viewing

and asked parents

to write down daily entries of any interactions they had with their child

about television during the two-week period.


Incentives for participating in the workshop differed

between the first two workshops and the third workshop.


For the first two

parent names were put into a bag and drawn for door prizes at

the end of the workshop

Parents could also be eligible for

an additional

prize of a 100 dollar Sears gift certificate by submitting their "TV diary" at

the end of the two week period. A dr

occurred subsequent to the two week

awing for the 100 dollar gift certificate

"parental mediation" period and a


They were encouraged to return their "TV Diaries"

in two weeks

when they would receive an additional five dollars upon returning the diary

Control Workshop

Workshop leaders.

Procedures concerning the random assignment,


and incentives were identical to the procedures followed in

the experimental condition.

The workshop leaders of the School A and School

B Control Workshops were,

like the Experimental workshop leader,


employees for Head Start who held positions as teaching coordinators with

responsibility for supervising several Head Start teachers.

The leader of the

School C Control Workshop was not employed by Alachua County Head Start

program and did not work regularly with this parent population.


the School C leader had extensive experience conducting workshops for a

wide range of professionals about issues related to children in Alachua


Different leaders were used for each of the Control Workshops due

to scheduling conflicts.

All three Control Group Workshop leaders reported

an enthusiastic response from participants,


and no significant differences on

posttest scores were found between the three Control groups.

Control workshop content.

The content of the Control Workshops

differed in content from that of the Experimental Workshops.

Basic statistics

and facts derived from the research on the effects of television viewing on

children were presented.

The emphasis was on acts of violence in television

child was mentioned but not emphasized (See Appendix B for background

notes for Control Workshop).

At the conclusion of the presentation of basic facts,

the workshop leader

showed a video tape of short program segments including many violent acts

depicted in children'


As these clips were shown,

a discussion

among the parents was generated.

Parents were encouraged to discuss their

experiences with violence in the television programs their children watched.

After viewing the violent programming clips,

break into small group

parents were asked to

(numbers depended on total number attending the


Parents were then asked to look

, as a group, at TV Guides which

were provided and to create a four hour per week viewing schedule for a

Head Start-aged child which was comprised of positive viewing selections and

another weekly viewing schedule which was comprised of negative selections.

Parents were given ten minutes to complete this exercise.

Upon completion of the exercise, participants from each group reported

on their group'

scheduling choices for both the

"good" and "bad"


Discussion generated by these reports was encouraged by the workshop


The completion of the Control workshops followed the same format as

that of the Experimental workshops.

Parent Measures

For parents in both experimental and control groups,

parental mediation


Another instrument to measure parental disciplinary orientation

(PDO) was also self-administered by these parents during the workshop


, a general questionnaire to ascertain parent and family


aspects of media use,

television mediation,

and regulatory

behavior were self-administered by parent/caretakers.

Data from this

questionnaire were not included as independent variables in the current


but will be reported on as survey data.

The P-C Q (Parent-child Interaction Questionnaire) (see Appendix C).

This instrument was developed in conjunction with The

Yale University

Family Research Center and as been used in previous studies including


, Singer,



, and Colimore, 1985 and Singer,



, Hirsch, and Nicol, 1988.

The instrument consists of multiple

descriptions of family situations.

The current study used two situations

describing family life in which parent-child interactions take place.


situation described a parent taking a child to visit relatives, the other

situation described a parent responding to their child's


viewing violence on

For each situation, 5 forced-choice items offered possible parental

responses to the situation.

Parents were asked to check the choice which was

closest to how they might respond to their child in the situation.

By analyzing the data gathered from 91 families, Desmond et al.


concluded that the P-C Q yielded a bipolar factor for parental mediation


scored high on the prescription dimension preferred using moral judgment

and discipline .

P-C Q Instrument 1 posited the situation "Imagine that you are going on

a visit to relatives with your child.

Which of each of the pairs of things below

are you more likely to do?" (see Appendix C, Part 1).

P-C Q Instrument 2 posited the situation

"Imagine that you are

watching a television program with your child which has turned out to be

very violent"

(see Appendix C,

Part 2).


were scored as either making a descriptive (discussion-oriented)

response or a prescriptive (moralizing) type of response.

PDO (Parent Disciplinary Orientation) measure (for PDO instrument,

see Appendix D)

An earlier study by Singer and Singer (1981)

in which a

relationship between disciplinary styles and television viewing had been

found, formed the basis for the development of this instrument by those

authors and their associates.

situation was described; i.e

., "If your child

talks back to you what do you do?"

the situation were listed. Parents

they were to take this disciplinary action:

Twelve possible disciplinary actions to

were asked to respond as to how likely

"never," "rarely," "sometimes," or


A value for parents' power-assertive disciplinary tendency was computed

by calculating a mean score from three items.

The items related to the

1. Say you'll spank him/her if you ever hear talk like that again.
2. Spank him or her.
3. Make him/her stay home or take away a treat or privilege.

A value for parents' love-withdrawal tendency was computed by

calculating the mean for 4 items. The it

child talks back to you what do you do?"

ems related to the question "If your

Possible responses to the following

alternatives of disciplinary action ranged from never

, rarely


, and usually

The items were

Say you don't like children who don't show respect for their parents.

Don't say much

but he/she can tell your feelings are hurt.

3. Look angry and walk away without saying a word.
4. Give an angry look and ignore her/him for a while.

Earlier factor analysis by Singer and Singer (1981) and their associates

had indicated two distinct patterns of response, one categorized as power-

assertive and the other as love-withdrawal.

Power-assertive discipline

emphasized coercion and physical punishment while love-withdrawal

emphasized parents withholding affection as a punitive response (Desmond

et al

., 1985).

Dependent Variables

Pre and Posttestine the Children

The dependent variables consisted of items assessing children


to discriminate between programming and commercial video segments,


's understanding of the intent of television advertising,

and children's

understanding of the deceptive potential of television items.

Items designed

children at their school by interviewers during an approximately

15 minute

pretest and posttest interview session with each individual child.

The interviewers.

Three college student interviewers were selected to

conduct the child interviews.

Two interviewers were recruited from an

undergraduate anthropology class and one from an undergraduate

psychology class.

They included two females,

both with extensive experience

with young children as mothers and in day care settings.

The other

interviewer was a male who had experience as a day care teacher's aid for a

university on-campus day care facility

. Two of the interviewers received

independent study credit for their

participation in the investigation,

and one

of the interviewers participated on a volunteer basis.


The interviewers were trained in four sessions.

During the

initial session, the trainer showed the interviewers a video tape of herself

interviewing a child of the target age and demographic background using the

instrument developed for this study

. The instrument was then distributed,

and the interviewers were asked become familiar with the instrument.

The next three sessions were held at a public elementary school with

children from a Head Start classroom not included in the experimental stage

of this investigation.

During each of the three sessions, each interviewer

interviewed at least one child in front of the trainer and the other


During this training,

interviewers were instructed to conduct

At the end of each session the trainer and interviewers reviewed

instrument items and revised the order of items and wording of items to

make the instrument easier to administer to the preschool children.

The interviews.

Prior to conducting the interviews,

the interviewers

visited each of the eight participating classrooms and were introduced by the

teachers to the children.

In many cases the interviewers had the opportunity

to assist in the classroom and play with the children during their 10 to 30

minute visit.

This preliminary introduction to the interviewers was

conducted so that children would not consider the interviewers as strangers

when they came to interview the children.

Prior to the interviews, children were assigned randomly to the three


The random assignment was conducted by picking a number

from a random list of numbers and locating the child whose subject number

corresponded with this random number.

From this point on,

children were

assigned from master class lists to each of the three interviewers

alternatively (e.g., the first child went to Interviewer 1

Interviewer 2

the second child to

, and so forth).

Interviews were conducted during a different two-week period at each


In the three schools, the rooms used for the interviewers included a

small library reference rooms located in the school's

media center, media

supply and storage rooms,

teacher office/work rooms,

and an empty

and a candy bar were also prepared for use in the testing situation.

addition, the interviewer set up an audio tape recorder to record the


Each interviewer went to the child's classroom and asked the teacher for

a child who had been randomly assigned to them. All teachers were familiar

with the study and were prepared to allow children to go with the


The interviewer introduced her/himself and brought the child

from their classroom to a private interview area where each child was

interviewed in a room alone with the interviewer.

During the course of the interview the interviewer,

played and


the video stimuli as necessary

At the end of the interview the child was

returned to their classroom and another child was brought to the media

center for testing unless the interviewer was finished for the day.

The Pre/Posttest Instrument (see Appendix E)

Distinguishine between programming and commercials.

The method

used to measure children's ability to distinguish commercials from

programming was adapted from a method used by Levin, Petros,

and Petrella


These authors found that reliance on young children

verbal skills

made it difficult to determine whether or not preschool children can make

this distinction (Levin et al., 1982).

In studies that relied on children

's verbal

articulation of the definition of a commercial

, most children younger than 6-

asked to say whether each one was a "program" or a "commercial" the

majority were able to make the correct distinction and their accuracy

increased with age,

even among the youngest subjects.

In the current investigation,

during a one-on-one interview situation,

each child was shown a series of 6, 12-38 second cuts of programming and

commercials edited together as they would appear if one were grazing with a

remote control through basic cable channels available in the Alachua County

region on a Saturday morning.

All the programming and commercials were

selected from one continuous 3-hour time block (with the exception of a

Headline News clip which was recorded from a later time block) and then

edited together to simulate channel grazing on a Saturday morning.




Now we

are going to watch

some things on TV.

I want you to tell me

whether we are watching a program or a commercial.

Remember, a

commercial is when they are


you something on TV that people can

buy." (Note that the definition of a commercial was introduced only after all


ment of


's understanding of intent had been completed earlier

in the interview.)

The following video clips were shown in this edited order: Barney

program clip (38 seconds); Cocoa Puffs animated commercial (2

1 seconds);

Wild Racers toy car commercial (1


CNN Headline news


Once the child labeled the segment as a program or a commercial

were asked to identify what the segment was about.


Responses which

correctly identified the segment as either commercial or program received a

score of

, and responses which were incorrect received a score of 0.


were posttested using the same stimuli,

14 to 25 days after the initial


Understanding intent of commercial


's understanding of the

intent of commercials was measured by 4 items which required verbal

responses including two open ended questions and two multiple choice

questions with the choices being

no, maybe,

and don't know

A measure

which did not require a verbal response from the child was included at the

end of the test.

The first item relating to understanding the intent of commercials

by the interviewer was "Sometimes on TV you


see a new toy or cereal or


Why do they show you these things on TV? "



mentioned buying the product received a score of 2,

and responses which

mentioned getting attention or showing the product received a score of 1.

Responses that were patently false or don't know,

received a score of 0.

The second item which probed understanding of the intent of


was "What is a TV commercial?

Do you know what it is

you know why they have TV commercials?"

The answer to this question was

being something between programs received a score of 1,

and any other

response which was patently false or don't know received a score of 0.

In addition to these open-ended questions, children were asked two

closed-response items.

The first was

"Does a TV commercial show you

something that someone could buy?"

Interviewers read children the possible

responses of

no, mavbe,

and don't know.

Response choices were

counterbalanced from item to item to avoid response pattern bias.


were scored as

responses of maybe were scored as 1,

and responses

of no or don't know were scored

as O.

The second closed-response question was:

"Are commercials trying to get

something?" Interviewers read children the possible responses of

no, maybe and don't know.

Response choices were counterbalanced from

item to item to avoid response pattern bias.

Responses of

were scored as

responses of were scored as 1,

and responses of no or don't know

were scored as 0.

The inclusion of a multiple pictorial choice item to



understanding of the intent of commercials was suggested by the research of


Macklin (1987).

The child was shown a 28 second commercial for a

preschool-age game-toy "Crocodile Dentist."

the product being advertised.

The child was asked to identify

Then the interviewer took out four individual

you to buy


screen and one of a child sitting on a couch with a though balloon, and one of

a child shopping in a store (see Appendix G).

Two pictures showed a male

child and two pictures showed a female child.

The interviewer said "Now I am going to show you some pictures"

allowed the child to help place the pictures on the table.

the following situations:

The pictures were of

In each, the toy product from the previously shown

commercial was prominently featured.

The scenes showed

Female child watching TV with product on screen
Male child with thought bubble above his or her head,

with toy in bubble

Male child at store with mother who is reaching for toy

Female child playing with her back to TV

Product is on TV.

The interviewer asked the child what was going on in each picture and,

once the interviewer felt the child knew what each picture represented, then

asked "Can you show me which picture shows why the people who make the

toy want you to see the toy on TV?

As the child made a choice

interviewer removed that picture and asked,

which is the next best reason"

a score of 4 points,

"of the pictures that are left,

etc. The choice of the shopping image received

of thinking received a score of 3 points, of watching

television received a score of 2 points,

and of playing with back turned to the

television set, a score of 1 point.

Understanding of deceptive Dotential.

Five items were included to probe


understanding of commercial's deceptive potential.

In addition,

children were shown a candy commercial and then shown the same candy in


They were asked their opinion as to whether the candy looked better