Skip to main content

“I feel like… their relationship is based on the media”: Relationship Between Media Representation and Adolescents’ Relationship Knowledge and Expectations

Abstract

Teen dating violence (TDV) is a serious public health issue associated with negative physical and behavior outcomes that disproportionately impact African-American adolescents. Despite the emergence of effective TDV prevention strategies, more knowledge is needed about how African American adolescents understand healthy and unhealthy relationships. Adolescents’ analysis of media representations can provide important insight into social norms around adolescent romantic relationships, which can inform the development of TDV prevention strategies. We conducted nine focus groups (n = 86) to explore perceptions of healthy and unhealthy relationships and the influence of media representations on romantic relationships. We transcribed focus group interviews verbatim and coded them line by line. Participants were primarily African American (90%), female (67%), and high school aged (13–17 years). Consistent with other studies, participants reported significant engagement across traditional and social media platforms that exposed them to a wide variety of fictional, celebrity, and peer relationships. A modified constructivist grounded theory analytic approach produced four major relationship themes: commitment, authenticity, privacy, and maturity. These themes captured participants’ reflections about romantic relationships and how the media interact with relationship processes and perceptions. Results show that adolescents are using media representations of romantic couples to clarify their own romantic relationship expectations and desires. Future prevention strategies should support youths’ use of critical thinking, perspective taking, and analysis to help align their relationship choices and expectations with their own values and preferences.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. Notably participants engaged in heteronormative discussions and assumptions that did not include same-sex relationships or issues of gender identity or sexual orientation.

  2. Participants perceived Barack and Michelle Obama, and Ciara and Russell Wilson as healthy examples of romantic relationships. Other celebrity couples were perceived as more unhealthy examples of romantic relationships. Chris Brown and Rhianna’s relationship was discussed as an example of a physically abusive relationship.

References

  • Akers, A., Yonas, M., Burke, J., & Chang, J. (2011). “Do you want somebody treating your sister like that?”: Qualitative exploration of how African American families discuss and promote healthy teen dating relationships. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 26(11), 2165–2185. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260510383028.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Banyard, V. L., & Cross, C. (2008). Consequences of teen dating violence: Understanding intervening variables in ecological context. Violence Against Women, 14(9), 998–1013.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Black, B. M., Chido, L. M., Preble, K. M., Weisz, A. N., Yoon, J. S., Delaney-Black, V., et al. (2015). Violence exposure and teen dating violence among African American youth. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 30(12), 2174–2195.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Breiding, M. (2015). Prevalence and characteristics of sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence victimization—National intimate partner and sexual violence survey, United States, 2011. American Journal of Public Health, 105(4), e11–e12. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2015.302634.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Charmaz, K. (2006). Constructing grounded theory: A practical guide through qualitative analysis. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

    Google Scholar 

  • Chia, S., & Gunther, A. (2006). How media contribute to misperceptions of social norms about sex. Mass Communication and Society, 9(3), 301–320. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327825mcs0903_3.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • ChildTrends. (2014). Watching television. Retrieved May 15, 2018, from https://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/55_Watching_TV.pdf.

  • De La Rue, L., Polanin, J., Espelage, D., & Pigott, T. (2017). A meta-analysis of school-based interventions aimed to prevent or reduce violence in teen dating relationships. Review of Educational Research, 87(1), 7–34. https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654316632061.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Debnam, K., Howard, D., & Garza, M. (2014). “If you don’t have honesty in a relationship, then there is no relationship”: African American girls’ characterization of healthy dating relationships, a qualitative study. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 35(6), 397–407. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10935-014-0362-3.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Eaton, A., & Stephens, D. (2019). Adolescent dating violence among ethnically diverse youth. In D. Wolfe & J. Temple (Eds.), Adolescent dating violence: Theory, research, and prevention (pp. 223–260). Cambridge, MA: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Exner-Cortens, D., Eckenrode, J., & Rothman, E. (2013). Longitudinal associations between teen dating violence victimization and adverse health outcomes. Pediatrics, 131(1), 71–78.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fisher, B. S., Cocker, A. L., Garcia, L. S., Williams, C. M., Clear, E. R., & Cook-Craig, P. G. (2014). Statewide estimates of stalking among high school students in Kentucky: Demographic profile and sex differences. Violence Against Women, 20(10), 1258–1279.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gerbner, G. (1998). Cultivation analysis: An overview. Mass Communication and Society, 1(3–4), 175–194.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Goldman, A., Mulford, C., & Blachman-Demner, D. (2016). Advancing our approach to teen dating violence: A youth and professional defined framework of teen dating relationships. Psychology of Violence, 6(4), 497–508. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0039849.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Haynie, D. L., Farhat, T., Brooks-Russell, A., Wang, J., Barbieri, B., & Ianotti, R. J. (2013). Dating violence perpetration and victimization among U.S. adolescents: Prevalence, patterns, and associations with health complaints and substance use. Journal of Adolescent Health, 53, 194–201. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.02.008.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Howard, D. E., Debnam, K. J., & Strausser, A. (2017). “I’m a stalker and proud of it”: Adolescent girls’ perceptions of the mixed utilities associated with internet and social networking use in their dating relationships. Youth & Society. https://doi.org/10.1177/0044118X17716948.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jeong, S., Cho, H., & Hwang, Y. (2012). Media literacy interventions: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Communication, 62(3), 454–472. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-2466.2012.01643.x.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Kann, L., McManus, T., Harris, W. A., Shanklin, S. L., Flint, K. H., Queen, B., et al. (2018). Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance — United States, 2017. MMWR Surveillience Summary, 67(No. SS-8), 1–114. https://doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.ss6708a1.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Korchmaros, J. D., Ybarra, M. L., & Mitchell, K. J. (2015). Adolescent online romantic relationship initiation: Differences by sexual and gender identification. Journal of Adolescence, 40, 54–64.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Landor, A. M., Hurt, T. R., Futris, T., Barton, A. W., McElroy, S. E., & Sheats, K. (2017). Relationship contexts as sources of socialization: An exploration of intimate partner violence experiences of economically disadvantaged African American adolescents. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 26(5), 1274–1284.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lormand, D. K., Markham, C. M., Peskin, M. F., Byrd, T. L., Addy, R. C., Baumler, E., et al. (2013). Dating violence among urban, minority, middle school youth and associated sexual risk behaviors and substance use. Journal of School Health, 83(6), 415–421.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • National Association for Media Literacy Education. (2018). Media literacy defined. Retrieved May 15, 2018, from https://namle.net/publications/media-literacy-definitions.

  • Pew Research Center. (2015). Social media and romantic relationships. Teens, technology, and romantic relationships. Retrieved May 15, 2018, from https://www.pewinternet.org/2015/10/01/social-media-and-romantic-relationships/.

  • Pounders, K., Kowalczyk, C. M., & Stowers, K. (2016). Insight into the motivation of selfie postings: Impression management and self-esteem. European Journal of Marketing, 50(9/10), 1879–1892. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJM-07-2015-0502.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Reyes, H. L. M., Foshee, V. A., Niolon, P. H., Reidy, D. E., & Hall, J. E. (2016). Gender role attitudes and male adolescent dating violence perpetration: Normative beliefs as moderators. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 45(2), 350–360.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rueda, H. A., Lindsay, M., & Williams, L. R. (2015). “She posted it on Facebook:” Mexican American adolescents’ experiences with technology and romantic relationship conflict. Journal of Adolescent Research, 30(4), 419–445.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sezer, O., Gino, F., & Norton, M. (2018). Humblebragging: A distinct-and ineffective-self-presentation strategy. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 114(1), 52. https://doi.org/10.1037/pspi0000108.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Silverman, J., Raj, A., Mucci, L., & Hathaway, J. (2001). Dating violence against adolescent girls and associated substance use, unhealthy weight control, sexual risk behavior, pregnancy, and suicidality. JAMA, 286(5), 572–579. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.286.5.572.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Stephens, D., & Eaton, A. (2017). Social networks influencing Black girls’ interpretations of Chris Brown’s violence against Rihanna. Journal of Black Psychology, 43(4), 381–408. https://doi.org/10.1177/0095798416648829.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stephens, D. P., & Few, A. L. (2007). The effects of images of African American women in hip hop on early adolescents’ attitudes toward physical attractiveness and interpersonal relationships. Sex Roles, 56(3–4), 251–264.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stephens, D. P., & Phillips, L. D. (2003). Freaks, gold diggers, divas, and dykes: The sociohistorical development of adolescent African American women’s sexual scripts. Sexuality and Culture, 7(1), 3–49.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Webb, T., Martin, K., Afifi, A., & Kraus, J. (2010). Media literacy as a violence-prevention strategy: A pilot evaluation. Health Promotion Practice, 11(5), 714–722. https://doi.org/10.1177/1524839908328998.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Wilkins, N., Myers, M. L., Kuehl, M. T., Bauman, M. A., & Hertz, M. M. (2018). Connecting the dots: State health department approaches to addressing shared risk and protective factors across multiple forms of violence. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, 24(Suppl 1 Injury and Violence Prevention), S32–S41.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wilson, H., Woods, B., Emerson, E., & Donenberg, G. (2012). Patterns of violence exposure and sexual risk in low-income, urban African American girls. Psychology of Violence, 2(2), 194. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0027265.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Young, R., Len-Ríos, M., & Young, H. (2017). Romantic motivations for social media use, social comparison, and online aggression among adolescents. Computers in Human Behavior, 75, 385–395. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2017.04.021.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Funding

Funding for this project was provided by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health under Award No. R13HD085961.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Shanti J. Kulkarni.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Human and Animal Rights

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Kulkarni, S.J., Porter, A.M., Mennick, A. et al. “I feel like… their relationship is based on the media”: Relationship Between Media Representation and Adolescents’ Relationship Knowledge and Expectations. J Primary Prevent 40, 545–560 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10935-019-00565-0

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10935-019-00565-0

Keywords

  • Teen dating violence
  • Healthy relationships
  • Violence prevention
  • Media literacy
  • Social media
  • African American adolescents