Date of Award:

1978

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Psychology

Advisor/Chair:

Glendon Casto

Abstract

Television is a pervasive influence in today's family life. The number of hours family members, particularly young children, spend watching TV must replace some other functions in the viewer's lives. Since one of the primary tasks of families with young children is the socialization of their youngsters, one might assume that TV interferes to some extent with this process. Among aspects of the socialization process are the need for the child to observe and interact frequently with role models, to obtain ample feedback on the appropriateness of his behavior, and to have many opportunities to test out what he has observed through role playing so he can incorporate and adopt relevant behaviors and values. These all take much time since socialization is a long-term, subtle process.

It was the basic premise of this research that television can be a disruptive force in the socialization process because it limits children's opportunities for interaction with parents and for play. To test this, 39 mothers and their preschool-aged children were observed under two conditions, when a television was on and when it was off. On both occasions, observers rated each dyad on interactive measures such as eye contact, physical touch, proximity, and verbalization, and on interaction with alternate activities. Attention to the television was also measured.

Analysis of the data showed that the presence of television significantly decreased eye contact, verbalization, and interaction with alternate activities. Furthermore, interactions were less extensive and Ss tended not to respond to each other's comments or questions when the TV was on. Children also tended to shift attention more frequently if they watch considerable amounts of TV at home, while children of mothers who watch little TV at home tended to be considerably more attentive to the TV in the experimental condition.

It was concluded that TV does interfere with some aspects of the socialization process by decreasing interaction and play-related activities. A question was raised, however, whether children who watch substantial amounts of TV might not attend less to the set, thus offsetting some of the negative effects related to decreased interaction with parents and toys.

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