Gender Roles In Children’s Television CommercialsFrances ToscaLoyola University Chicago
Why It’s Important:• Television viewing is the number one activity for children, so they are watching a huge number of commercials that aren’t being monitored as closely as the actual programs (Kahlenberg & Hein, 2009)• After watching commercials that portray stereotypical gender roles, children may be inﬂuenced to follow a strict gender role that inhibits their cognitive and social development• From a very young age, children are able to attribute certain characteristics to a particular gender, which is partly due to what they see in the media. If they attribute a certain characteristic to the opposite sex, they may feel the pressure to mask that trait in themselves (Bakir & Palan, 2010)• The pressure to ﬁt into a role can be overwhelming for children
Related Theories• Social Learning Theory- Children learn from observing social models, watching for behaviors that are rewarded (which they will imitate) or punished (which they will avoid) (Klinger, Hamilton, & Cantrell, 2001)• Cultivation Theory- The media plays a large role in people’s perceptions of reality, so the more a person is exposed to those images the more their version of reality is distorted. If their life is like what they’ve seen on TV, what they see in commercials has a greater affect on them.
Past Research• Advertising may support the development of gender schemas and stereotypes that contribute to a child’s identity. The child’s ability to accept such stereotypes is called gender ﬂexibility. When children are high in gender ﬂexibility, they are less willing to accept “girly” products in advertising, especially if shown with male characters (Bakir & Palan, 2010)• Kahlenberg and Hein’s (2009) content analysis on type of toys advertised on Nickelodeon showed no dolls in commercials with male actors and very few “boy” toys in commercials with female actors• Larson’s (2001) content analysis on gender and aggression in children’s advertising shows more single-gender commercials and competitive interactions occurring only in men’s commercials
Questions and Hypothesis• Q1- What kinds of interactions are children having?• Q2- What settings are the commercials taking place in?• Q3- Which gender is predominantly shown?• H1- Females- Harmonious/Indoors, Males- Combative/Outdoors• H2- More all-male commercials
Procedure• Watched 10 hours of television during morning, afternoon, and early evening time slots.• Shows watched were rated TV-Y7 or TV-G• Only commercials with humans were coded
Coding• Gender of characters- all-male, all-female, or mixed-gender• Dominant interaction style- Combative, Harmonious, Parallel/Independent• Dominant setting- Indoors, Outdoors, Other• Type of product- Movies/television shows, food, attractions, toys, clothing/ accessories, contests/sweepstakes, video games, and other
Results- Gender of Characters and Interactions• Hypotheses were not supported All-Male All-Female Mixed Gender• There were more mixed gender commercials than all-male and all-female, χ2 (1, N = 136) = 14.35, p < .01• Mixed gender commercials showed more 32% harmonious and combative interactions than all-female or all-male commercials, χ2 47% (1, N = 136) = 14.35, p < .01 (for harmonious), χ2 (1, N = 60) = 8.27, p < .01 (for combative) 21%• All-female commercials portrayed parallel/ independent interactions more often than harmonious or combative, χ2 (1, N = 28) = 12.5, p < .01.
Results- Setting• All-male commercials were set indoors more often than any other setting, χ2 (1, N = 44) = 6.73, p < .01.• All-female commercials ended up in the ‘other’ category more often than any other setting, χ2 (1, N = 28) = 12.93, p < .01.• Mixed-gender commercials were more often set indoors than in any other setting χ2 (1, N = 64) = 19.91, p < .01
What This May Mean:• Past research had evidence pointing towards displays of stereotypical gender roles in commercials, which was not seen in this study. • This may point to a change in the culture from the time the other studies were conducted.• As previously mentioned, there were more mixed gender commercials than all-male or all-female commercials. • This may mean that advertisers are more aware of the need to market more products to both genders, which would be a great step forward in achieving gender equality.
Further Research Questions• Past research showed that children preferred single gender commercials over mixed gender commercials. If more mixed-gender commercials are being shown today, will children feel more favorably towards them?• Has the change seen in some advertisements affected their sales?• Is this change seen in commercials for older adolescents and adults?• Would these results be the same if a larger number of commercials were recorded?