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CHILDREN'S PERCEPTIONS OF AGGRESSIVE AND GENDER-SPECIFIC CONTENT IN TOY COMMERCIALS

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Abstract:

While extensive research has been conducted to determine what relationships exist between media violence and aggressive behavior in students, little research exists on the impact of toy commercials. In this study, 103 elementary school children rated videotapes of toy commercials or slides of toys on perceived aggressiveness, stereotypic sex-role behavior, gender-based appropriateness and imagined play with the toys depicted. Girls rated imagined play with boy-toys as being more aggressive than did boys, and boys rated girl-toys more appropriate for girls than did girls. All commercials were rated as demonstrating stereotypic sex-role behavior. Male-focused commercials and imagined toy play with the boy-toys depicted were rated more aggressive than were female-focused and neutral commercials, and their respective toys. At the same time, boy-toys were rated by both girls and boys as more desirable than girl-toys. The results suggest that boys are particular targets of aggressive content in marketing and are more desensitized to aggressive content than are girls. Though girls perceived more aggressiveness than did boys, the aggressive toys remained highly desirable. Thus, aggressive content in toy commercials appears attractive, especially to boys, but also to girls. Since children's programming is saturated with toy commercials, young viewers are at best reinforced by stereotypic sex-role behavior, and at worst, inundated with violent content.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.2001.29.1.11

Publication date: 2001-01-01

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