Sexualization in U.S. Latina and White Girls’ Preferred Children’s Television Programs

Abstract

Sexualization is associated with negative mental and physical health consequences for girls. Media exposure, particularly television (TV), is a pervasive source of sexualizing messages yet little work has quantified sexualization in children’s media, particularly in media popular with minority youth. The current research examines the prevalence of sexualization in children’s TV programs popular among U.S. Latina and White girls aged 6 to 11 through a quantitative content analysis of 32 episodes from the ten most popular children’s TV series. Results indicated that sexualization was present in every coded episode, with at least three instances present per episode, and a combined total of 770 instances across all episodes. Female characters were more commonly portrayed in a sexualized manner than were male characters and were sexualized in 72 % of instances. Characters of color were generally sexualized at the same rate as White characters. Although sexualized clothing was the most common form of sexualization in the children’s programs, a broad range of sexualizing content was present. Instances of sexualization included sexualizing comments, body exposure, self-sexualizing physical behaviors and activities, sexualizing physical behaviors toward others, verbal and physical objectification, and body/appearance modification. These findings suggest that sexualization is present in children’s media popular among both Latina and White girls and that identifying means to counter this influence should be a priority.

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Acknowledgement

The present research was funded by UC Merced Office of the Chancellor and UC Merced School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts.

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Correspondence to Elizabeth McDade-Montez.

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This research was funded by UC Merced Office of the Chancellor and UC Merced School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts.

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McDade-Montez, E., Wallander, J. & Cameron, L. Sexualization in U.S. Latina and White Girls’ Preferred Children’s Television Programs. Sex Roles 77, 1–15 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-016-0692-0

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Keywords

  • Content analysis
  • Children’s media
  • Latina girls
  • Sexualization
  • Mass media
  • Objectification