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

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University of Florida
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Full Text









FAMILY VIEWS: THE EFFECT OF TRAINING PARENTS
TO MEDIATE THEIR CHILDREN'S TELEVISION VIEWING
ON CHILDREN'S COMPREHENSION OF COMMERCIALS












By

DENISE MATTHEWS


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PIHTT.OCOPT-Y






























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


Matthews,


who taught me to cherish my own creativity and originality













ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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.


John


Wright remained optimistic and flexible throughout this


process while offering excellent advice as chair of my committee.


Michael


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,


friend.


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


Finally,


public servant, and


who really knew how to mediate my TV viewing.















TABLE OF CONTENTS


Sa g~e


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


ABSTRACT


CHAPTERS


INTRODUCTION


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'


Televi


* 4
* 4 .

* S 4 4
i n
ion


* S S S S S 8


THE LITERATURE


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


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


Encourage Parental Mediation
Viewing. . . . . .


;ion


METHOD


S 1Lionlets So S is** St Sy *








RESULTS


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


APPENDICES


VIDEO SCRIPT


CONTROL CONDITION--BACKGROUND NOTES


PARENT-CHILD QUESTIONNAIRE

PARENT DISCIPLINE ORIENTATION


N . ... . . . .


CHILD MEIASURE . . ..... 149


APPEARANCE-REALITY PRETEST ONLY MEASURE


HOW IT WAS ADMINISTERED


VISUAL CHOICES


REFERENCES


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH













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


FAMILY VIEWS:


THE EFFECT OF TRAINING PARENTS


TO MEDIATE THEIR CHILDREN'S TELEVISION VIEWING
ON CHILDREN'S COMPREHENSION OF COMMERCIALS

By

Denise Matthews


December 1994


Chairman:


John


Major Department:


Wright
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


=72)


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


violence.


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.


Children'


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













CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

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


interaction.


(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


Desmond


, Singer & Singer,


1990;


McLeod


, Fitzpatrick,


Glynn,


& 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,


Eccles


, & O'Brien,


1985).


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,


ideas


, and messages like televised


content.


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,


1980).


These


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


Reid


,1979).


Parents


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,

1980).

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

discussion-oriented family communication style are positively associated with


children


's lower total viewing (Desmond et al


., 1990)


awareness of prosocial


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


1982)


understanding of


television


conventions, recall of narratives, and ability to distinguish


between reality and fantasy (Desmond, Singer,


Singer,


Calam


, & Colimore,


1985; Singer,


Singer,


Desmond, Hirsch,


& Nicol


,1988).


Ward,


Wackman,








Parents who reported being concerned that their children


behaviors


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


children


's television viewing (Bybee,


Robinson


& Turow


,1982).


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


(1990).


The higher parents'


educational


level and the higher their socioeconomic status (SES),


the greater the


likelihood of parents reporting that they mediate their child's


viewing


(Comstock,


Chaffee


Katzman


McCombs


& Roberts


,1978; Medrich,


Roizen,


Rubin & Buckley,


1982).


The more parents said they believed in television's


negative effects,


the more parents reported engaging in mediating activities


(Medrich et al.


1982).


However


, 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-


1982).


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,


Abelman


Cohen


,1990; Heald,1980; Matthews,


Children'


Television


1993).

Viewin as a Public Issue


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


year (Condry, 1989; Condry


Bence


& Schiebe


,1988).


Most advertising


targets adults,


but during children


programming, after


school


and on


Saturday mornings advertisers target children.


Child advocates and free-


market proponents have conflicted about the ethics of targeting television


advertising


to children for almost 25 years (Action for Children


's Television


v. FCC


,1977)


. 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.


,1977).


Free-market proponents


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








children's


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).


Also


in an effort to increase educational children's


programming,


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.


1985)


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,


Heeter,


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,


1991).


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


commercials,


(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


214)


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


programming.


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,


1972)


. 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 &


Green


,1989).


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.,

1970).


The Child Market


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


parents (McNeal &


Yeh


,1993).


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,


1993).


Marketing specialist


saw this


population increase as an opportunity to cultivate a new children'


market


(Goerne,


1992).


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,


candy


cereal, fast food, and other product manufacturers


and service providers (Stabiner,


1993).


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.


Parents'


mediation--


e.g.,


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


interpret,


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


Television


Viewing


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.













CHAPTER 2
THE LITERATURE

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


1930s


, 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,


experimental,


and qualitative approaches to determine young


people'


use of the medium,


their activities


, school performance, and


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


their knowledge,


attitudes


and behaviors.


The Payne Fund researchers defined and isolated variables and


mP2.lurod nhsprvablhe nuantifiable outcomes. like learning.


school








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).


Thus


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,


1983)


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.


Unfortunately,


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


research


, called for the study of parental influence on children


's television








ways families spent their leisure time (Himmelweit,


Oppenheim


& Vince,


1958; Shramm, Lyle,


& Parker


,1961).


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


preferences.


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:


age,


intelligence,


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


1980).


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


children


television viewing, like naturalistic observation, did not flourish








early research on television effects on children.


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'


exposures


to television models/behaviors and subsequent performance of the same


behaviors.


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.


Bandura


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


learning.


1969


, 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.


Blumer








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


children

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.


This


research represented a growing trend toward including how "certain


environmental conditions facilitate the learning of attitudes,


knowledge,


behavior patterns from television by children in preschool and early school






15

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


viewing,


are well documented by investigations across these methodologies


(Comstock & Paik


1991).


However, despite a long tradition of research on


children and media effects


, the challenge of Lazarsfeld's call for "


studies


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


1971


Murphy,


Tally


Huston, & Wright,


1991


Schramm et al., 1961)).


Studies examining the relationships


between


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.

Surveys








use


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


status, education,


and viewing habits (Bower,


1985)


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).


Parent


income.


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.,


1991).


In the same survey


lower parent income was related to greater


amounts of children


television viewing (Atkin et al.


,1991).


Children in


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


regardless of income (Anderson & Williams,


1983).


Parent


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.


1985).


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.,


1991).


Another survey,


however






17

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

1982).


Family media use.


Viewing habit data are not surprising.


The more


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


,1985)


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 &


Webster


,1986).


Based


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,


1985).


But coviewing only modestly predicted any kind


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


Dorr,


Kovaric, & Doubleday,


1989)


Parents and children were observed to touch


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


Parental mediation.


1980)


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


1973)


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


Lazer


& Atkin


,1976).


In Corder-Bolz


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


52% of parents






18

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


viewing


(Bower,


1985).


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


1980


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,

1985).

Experimental Studies


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


many researchers report positive associations between parents'


and children


mediations


learning from and comprehension of televised content.


Parental mediations have been demonstrated to influence children's


gains from television exposure,


and children


cognitive


behavioral responses to televised content,


's social cognition in regard to televised content.


Cognitive skills.


Children's


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,


Appleton


Conner


, Shaffer, Tamkin,


& Weber


, 1975; Lesser,


1974)


. 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

comments.


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,


1980).


The author found that the interaction of a


teacher's


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.


Behavior.


The effectiveness of parental mediation on children's


behavioral responses to television commercials were tested in a laboratory








interviewed.


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.


results


These


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.,


1978).


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








1985).


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.


,1982).


Positive,


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


1988).


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.


118)


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


"concept-onentation.


The


other dimension which discourages children from expressing anger or


disagreeing with parents is labeled


"socio-orientation."


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


content.


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


children'


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,


behaviors


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 &


Stoneman


1983


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


1981


Reid


& Frazer


,1980)


. 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


These


'use


One


interaction is particularly relevant to the present investigation:


(Charl


age 5 and Ed,


age 4,


are watching a Saturday morning cartoon


show


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


imitation.


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


discuss.


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


"experience"


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


values.


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


1980).


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.


research

Parents


encouraged children to watch educational programs that provided lessons in


cognitive skills


Parents also used themes presented in television








children'


viewing by limiting viewing times.


Parental regulation of


children


'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.


Also


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


referents


, social learning, and parental regulation are basic assumptions in


the conceptualization of the present investigation.


For each family


these


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


Pattern

Singer,


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

Roger Desmond, and their associates combined survey data,


laboratory investigation


homes.


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.


1990


, 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






28

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


period.


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


parent

, parents'


perceptions of their child


's aggressive behaviors,


and a self-report measure of


parent


' resourcefulness.


The children were tested using the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test and


three scales of the Peabody Individual Achievement Test


assess


reading


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


rules.


Open-ended responses to pictures of families interacting in various


situations were elicited from the children.


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.


that


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


(descriptive)


or one in which the primary modes of communication are


related to control or moralizing (prescriptive)"


(Desmond et al.


1985


, 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


style.


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'


Children


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.


Children


's ability


to discriminate between reality and fantasy was related negatively to amount


of weekly television viewing.


Understanding


zooms was associated


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


parental resourcefulness.


positively with the mother'


Children


's heavy television viewing was associated


heavy viewing,


little discussion or explanation in


the family, and a large emphasis on psychological discipline.


Children's


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


self-


projection of


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


pictures,


and children's


reports of parents'


rules.


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,


grasping


regardless


of the








Results indicated that a family communication pattern of discussion


and explanation in


Year 1 was positively related to several measures of


children's


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


variables.


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


children's


television comprehension, viewing quantity


and aggression


(Desmond


Hirsch


, Singer & Singer,


1987).


In the sample of 66 children,


half


male and half female


Desmond et al.


(1987) found some significant gender


differences.


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


1985).


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.


1980


Reid,


1979; Robertson, 1979


Ward et al


Ward,


Wackman


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.


They


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

more important influence on consumer socialization than television


advertising"


They took a situational view of children's


consumer








combining questionnaire and observational data, provided evidence that


maternal mediation was the single greatest influence on children's


socialization (Ward et al


consumer


., 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,


1978).


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,


1979).


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,


child,


and situational factors" (p


Children'


responses to television advertising were found to be related to


parental discussion about consumption of goods and services (Ward &


Wackman


,1973),


parental approval of the advertised product (Atkin, 1978)


and differences in family environment associated with parental education


(Robertson & Rossiter,


1974).


A regression analysis suggested that for


kindergarten children,


mother-child interaction is the most important factor


contributing to consumer skill development (Ward et al.,


1977).


These








Typically


children


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.


1991).

Preschool


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.,


1982).


In one study


for instance


, subjects were


72 predominantly white preschool children from urban lower-middle class


families.


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,


Kritt


, & Bergemann,


1984).


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


upper-middle.


Data was collected through child interviews using open-ended


questions.


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,


"assistive"


"persuasive."


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


.19).


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


commercials


Faber


, 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


Selman


'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


children


78.7% realized these


that between the ages of 6 and


understanding that commercials can be deceptive increases


dramatically


. This understanding has been linked with children


s increasing


ability to engage in recursive thinking.


In a study of children's comprehension of commercials,


Paget,


Kritt


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,


Kessel


& Falvell


,1970).


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.


1970),


the literature


suggests


that


, 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


products,


they do


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


1984).


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.


interaction


Observational learning,


social


, and developing social cognitive capacities are key proc


esses


involved in children'


advertising.


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


Social


's mental capacities develop and


facilitate their understanding of both vicarious (e.g


., televised) and real social


interactions.

Social Learnine


The human capacity for symbolization facilitates learning by observation


(Bandura.


1977)


Even verve voun children learn pnmnlpx hphaviors from


.








televised content and the behaviors of others regarding television.


Bandura


(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.


24-25)


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.


1991)


In addition,


parents


' 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,


1973).


Although children are seen as actively acquiring behaviors from


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


reinforcements.


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,


r






41

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

and material possessions rather than punishment like physical harm


(Bandura,


1965).


The viewer's


identification with the characteristics like


sex


, 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,


1979).


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


(Charters,


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,


repulsions,


and responses based on the individual's prior experience.


The


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


fast


, 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,


events


, 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,


1969).


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


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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,


1969


, 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,


1985).


"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


action--e.g.


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


"anything


and everything has to be formed,


learned


transmitted


through a process of indication" (Blumer, 1969,


And like any object


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


meaning


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.


behaviors


1982).


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.


Children's


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.


,1990)








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


interactions


, a process


known as social cognition.


Developmental


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,


feeling,


intending,


seeing,


and what they are like as a person


(Shantz,


1975)


. Over the past two decades,


information processing and


cognitive models of knowledge acquisition have provided television


researchers with approaches to studying television


Piaget's


's influence on children.


stages of cognitive development were used to predict children


varying abilities in dealing with attention


perception,


and logical operations


relevant to television viewing (Bachen,


1981).


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,


1981


Collins,








television programming.


Andrew Collins, one on the most prolific


researchers of children's


cognitive process and television,


wrote in


1983:


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?


Cr.145)


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


aggressive


behaviors


children


however


, 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 &


Singer,


1986)


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,


p.144).


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


expectations,


within the general constraints imposed by developmental


individual capabilities for acquiring,


retaining, and retrieving


social


information (p.


145).


Thinking and knowledge about oneself and others as individuals,


relationships


between people, social customs,


groups,


and institution may all


be included in the consideration of


social cognitive development (Flavell,


Miller


, & Miller, 1993).


The ability to differentiate and coordinate one's


own


social perspectives and those of others,


both cognitively and emotionally,


develops from early childhood (Flavell et al.,


1993).


Until recently,


social


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


for study (Dunn


1988)


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,


1988).


Just as new observations reveal that Piagetian descriptions of young


children's


cognitive capacities may be underestimations (Dunn,


1988)


new


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


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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


1993).


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


commercials


, 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


thing,


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.


abilities


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


thought


intentions,


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


screen,


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


"no."


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


& Miller


,1993).


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


mind


lind.


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


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


tasks.


These include understanding that another person'


visual perspective


yields a


different view than one's


own (Flavell, Everett,


Croft


, & Flavell,


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


nice or visa versa (Flavell,


Lindberg,


Green


& Flavell


,1992),


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,


Flavell


& Green


,1987).


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"


(Shantz,


1975


, p.264).


Selman (19


1) described role-


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


own






52

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,


1991).


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,

1983).

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


"real"


)f2-


5-year-old children,


50% carried out a deception,


and 20% verbalized the


deception.


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,


1991)


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


game.


Children and adults alike have great


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






53

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,


1974).


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


truthful.


Previous Intervention


to Encourage Parental Mediation


of Children


's Television


Viewing


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,


1993).


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






54

Parents were randomly assigned to one of three experimental conditions


or a control grot

viewing guide.


Ip.


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


encouraging.


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


viewing.


A comparison of responses on a questionnaire


assess


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


(Herrick,


1991


Moore 1990; Wikeland, 1990).


Although most everyday


interactions between parent and child are not explicitly instructional,


children constantly seek the meaning,


purpose,


and connotation of everything


around them (Rogoff,


1990).


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


understanding


(Rogoff,


1990).


Vygotsky saw this type of social interaction as central to


children's


development and described intellectual development as a process of


learning to use intellectual tools through social interaction.


Through


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


developing


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.


Children


'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,


1990).


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,


1990)


. 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,


1983).


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


quantity

(2)


. 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


esses


, children develop a theory of mind;


- ..








Children's


comprehension and interpretation of televised content is


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


1982; Corder-


Bolz,


1980)


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


(Rogoff,


1990).


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


enhancing dialog with their children (Desmond et al.


1985).


They may never


have observed this type of interaction with small children.


Among low-


income


, 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).


People


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


handling successfully (Bandura


1977).


Seeing oneself as capable actually


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


competent.


Conversely


, seeing oneself as inadequate leads to avoidance of


activities in which one could develop competencies (Bandura,


1986).


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


comparing


one


'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,


1986).


Parents who believe that television


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


viewing


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


Robinson


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,


1993)


Lack of performance may not be due to lack


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


1986).


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.,


1991).
*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"






60

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,


verbally


the ability to interact


with the type of parental mediation that has been demonstrated to


be most effective (Desmond, et al.


1985).


Lack of incentives and resources


also may reduce performance (Bandura


1986)


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


(Mills,


1959)


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?


children's


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








study


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


Bandura's


(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.


single,


low-income,


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


viewing


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

Self-efficacy appraisals are partly influenced by vicarious


experiences.


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,


1986


,p. 399)


(2) Verbal persuasion via

(a) Credible expert sources presenting information about the


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


researcher


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





62

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


experience (Bandura,


1986


399).


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.


parents


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.,


1985).


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


children


'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

workshop.


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 understand the intent of


commercials than children whose parents attended the control workshop.


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






65

potential of commercials than children whose parents attended the control

workshop.

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.,


1987).


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.













CHAPTER 3
METHOD

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,


subsequent


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


television


viewing.


Subjects


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


County


Florida


, 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,


186.000.


unincorporated areas, and one


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






69

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'


kindergarten


entering


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


families.


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.


Approximately


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,


Hispanic,


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


director.


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






70

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


child'


school.


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


room.


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.


Design


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.


This


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.


school


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


posttested.


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.


Therefore


, 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.


Parents'


Random Assignment


Parents who attended the workshops were assigned randomly to








number, the research assistant proceeded vertically down the column.


When


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.


Transportation


child


care


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


control,


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


evening.


Times for the workshops


were determined by informally polling


some parents and teachers about preferred days and times.

ExnPrimental Condition






7

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


workshops.


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


viewing.


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


number.


This number corresponded with their child'


identification number.


Then parents were instructed to enter the designated classroom.


Workshop


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.


The


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


viewing.


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.






76

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


used.

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.





77

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


idea.


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.


television,


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


viewers


so they won't be


begin


harmed by television.


by watching this video made just for this workshop which


gets


into all of this.


Next


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


script).


Group discussion.


Next


, 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,


candy


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.


Next


, the workshop leader introduced a group


activity to the participants.


Parents were shown two toy commercials.


After


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






80

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


dolls.


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

money.

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.


Incentives for participating in the workshop differed


between the first two workshops and the third workshop.


workshops,


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








names.


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,


questionnaires,


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,


full-time


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.


However,


the School C leader had extensive experience conducting workshops for a

wide range of professionals about issues related to children in Alachua


County


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,


children


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'


programming.


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


workshop).


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"


schedules.


Discussion generated by these reports was encouraged by the workshop


leader.


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








workshop


Another instrument to measure parental disciplinary orientation


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


addition


, a general questionnaire to ascertain parent and family


demographics,


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


analysis


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


Desmond


, Singer,


Singer,


Calam


, and Colimore, 1985 and Singer,


Singer,


Desmond


, 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.


One


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


situation described a parent responding to their child's


television.


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.


(1985)


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





84

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).


Parents


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


"usually."

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


sometimes


, 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


ability


to discriminate between programming and commercial video segments,


children


'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.


Training.


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


interviewers.


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


interviewers


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


school.


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

interview.


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


interviewer.


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


stopped


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


(1982).


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.


interviewer


The


said


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


showing


you something on TV that people can


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


measure


ment of


children


'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


seconds),


CNN Headline news


segment








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


were asked to identify what the segment was about.


they


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.


Children


were posttested using the same stimuli,


14 to 25 days after the initial


interview.


Understanding intent of commercial


Children


'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


posed


see a new toy or cereal or


candy


Why do they show you these things on TV? "


Responses


which


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


commercial


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.


Responses


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 ma.be 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


assess


children


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


M.C


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






92

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


children


understanding of commercial's deceptive potential.


In addition,


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


person.


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