Research in Media Use and Symptomatology
RoseAnna L. Hollo
New England College
Psychology of Social Media
December 12, 2012
Research in Media Use and Symptomatology
In 2005 a study was performed in Germany about the relationship of self-reported
symptomatology and media use in adolescents. Specifically, the researchers examined the
relationship between health and media-use from a “stress-theoretical perspective” (Lohaus, Ball,
Klein-Hessling, and Wild, 2005). Four types of media were examined: TV, audio media, print
media, and computer, while gender differences were noted. The function of these types of media
were analyzed and compared with the types of media used by both genders. This paper serves as
a discussion of that study, including the results and limitations, and how research could be
expanded in this area.
A five-point rating scale called “extent of media use” (Lohaus, et al., 2005), was used in
which students choose the frequency of use of various types of media. “Functions of media use”
(Lohaus, et al., 2005), was based on “12 items with four-point rating-scales ranging from ‘does
not apply at all’ to ‘does apply exactly’” (Lohaus, et al., 2005). The items were “(1) getting
information by media use, (2), using media to have fun, and (3) using media for coping with
problems. The Youth Self Report (YSR) questionnaire, which has been used in previous studies
about stress, was adapted for this study in order to assess the level of stress symptoms related to
media use, using language appropriate for the age level of participants (Lohaus, et al., 2005).
This study took place from April to June of 2003. Eleven trained graduate students
collected the data. Participants completed questionnaires during school hours in groups of three
to five students. A graduate student was on-hand to help explain items if the participant needed
help. Perhaps the results would be different if the participants would have completed the
questionnaires in a more private area, on their own, as the potential for embarrassment is obvious
when placed in a group of peers.
What was found?
The five-point rating scale analysis showed that most time is spent with TV, followed by
audio media, print media, and then computer use. One has to wonder, first, why video games
were omitted from this study, as they seem to be very popular among pre-teens right now, and
were popular several years ago as well. This is not a new phenomenon in the United States,
though it may be in Germany. Another concern is that with the growth of the internet and social
media sites, perhaps a new study would show that computer use is not the least-used form of
media, but possibly the most-used.
The 12-item scale focusing on the functions of media use showed that fun and coping
were the main reasons for using all types of media, while print media and TV were the only
types of media used to gather information. (Would this be different now because of the
widespread use of online search tools such as Google)? The researchers additionally
hypothesized that “the associations between the extent of media use and symptomatology
reported previously are mediated by the functions of media use…” (Lohaus, 2005). Using a
regression analysis, the researchers looked for a relationship between extent of use and function
of different types of media. They found significant influences related to coping (mostly in TV
use for boys and girls, audio media for girls, and computer use for boys). They found no coping
sought out by either gender in print media, which was used mostly to obtain information.
Gender differences reveal a gap in how and why young adolescents use media and how
they internalize and externalize symptoms. In girls, associations are mainly to externalizing
symptoms, and in boys both internalizing and externalizing was found. A positive correlation
was found between symptomatology and media use. This is muddied by the reasons given for
using media, as some media use was connected with causing stress, and some media use was
associated with a way to relieve stress. Therefore, different types of media serve different uses
for young adolescents (Lohaus, et al., 2005).
If symptomatology is interpreted as stress reactions, it appears that adolescents use media
as a way of coping with stress by creating distractions from it. Media can help to change a
mood, or provide a break from daily life.
It was also clear in this study’s results, that independent influences “can be attributed to
the function of media in getting information. However, even if this function is additionally
included, the relation between media use and symptomatology cannot be fully explained”
(Lohaus, et al., 2005). The best explanation for this, as posed by the researchers, is that
functions are not always related to fun, coping, or information seeking. Getting arousal is just
one example of another function, and there may be many more.
The participants selected for this study were 357 fifth-graders, of which 201 girls and 156
boys, with an average age of 11.1. The researchers chose fifth-graders “because they represent a
sample at the transition from childhood to adolescence where media use increases with regard to
extent, and also where the function of media use increasingly diverge” (Lohaus, et al., 2005).
The participants were from 25 different secondary schools in the Marburg region of Germany,
and all were Caucasian from “lower to upper middle-class socioeconomic backgrounds”
(Lohaus, et al., 2005). Unfortunately, only two socio-economic classes and one racial
background was examined in this study. This might reflect the region of the world in which this
study was performed, but when applying it to American life, it may not be an accurate sample of
a typical American pre-teen cross-section, as the United States has a much more varied cultural
population. “Germans are a lot more homogeneous (than Americans): obviously in their race, but
also in their clothes, manners, ideas, values, life styles” (Boldt, 2010).
New research possibilities
I believe this study would benefit from being done in the United States. The socio-
economic and racial/ethnic background of participants could be broadened.
The data in this study was collected nearly 10 years ago. It is time to examine this
subject again. Particularly interesting would be to add video games and the internet and/or social
media use to this study, as the prevalence of use among pre-teens is obvious these days.
Another suggestion may be to add more functions to the questionnaire. “Getting arousal”
and other types of functions may be added.
Researchers could also consider group/social use of media and second-hand exposure
among boys, girls, and even mixed groups.
The way the data is collected might benefit from a change, too. Pre-teens who are subject
to embarrassment in groups might answer more honestly if completing the questionnaire in a
It would be interesting to see how younger children and adults score on these
questionnaires, as well, and to be able to compare how different age ranges use media.
The researchers suggest that looking to other studies for information about different
functions of media use would be a good first-step in designing new studies that include further
data collection. Further collection of data will be no easy task because of the dynamic
relationship between use, function, and symptomatology.
Boldt, A (2010). A subjective comparison of Germany and the United States. Retrieved
December 10, 2012, from http://math-www.uni-paderborn.de/~axel/us-d.html#diversity
Lohaus, A., Ball, J., Klein-Hessling, J., & Wild, M. (2005). Relations between media use
and self-reported symptomatology in young adolescents. Anxiety, Stress, and Coping, 18(4):