, Volume 70, Issue 1-2, pp 43-56

Gender Roles in Tween Television Programming: A Content Analysis of Two Genres

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Abstract

This content analysis of gender role portrayals in 49 episodes of 40 distinct United States tween television programs aired in 2011 examined two genres: teen scene (geared towards girls) and action-adventure (geared towards boys). This programming is of interest because tweens are a lucrative market, they watch more television than any other age group, and television programs are created specifically for them. Furthermore, members of this special group are in an important developmental stage in which social and intellectual schema are established and identity and gender are explored. The analysis focused on the numbers of male and female characters in both genres, and the gender role portrayals of characters in terms of appearance, behaviors, and personality characteristics in the two genres. Results show that females, compared to the U.S. population, were underrepresented in the action adventure genre, but that the gender distribution in the teen scene genre mirrored the male–female distribution in the U.S. population. Overall, compared to males, females were more attractive, more concerned about their appearance, received comments about their “looks.” Females were presented similarly in both genres. Overall, males were shown in varying levels of attractiveness, and were portrayed more stereotypically in the action adventure genre. Exploring these results through the lenses of cultivation theory and social cognitive theory shows that tween viewers could potentially develop narrow conceptions about their range of possibilities in the world.