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'Tween' TV programming promotes gender roles stereotypes

Researchers have said that "Tween TV programming consists of two genres

Ashton Lee Gerding, a doctoral student in the Department of Communication at MU, said tween viewers are undergoing an important developmental stage and actively seek cues about gender.

He said TV programming can play an important role in that development, so we examined tween television programming. Overall, girls were portrayed as more attractive, more concerned about their appearance, and received more comments about their appearance than male characters.

However, female and male characters were equally likely to be handy with technology and exhibit bravery. This sends the message that girls and boys can participate in and do the same things, but that girls should be attractive and work to maintain this attractiveness.

The study analyzed 49 episodes of 40 distinct American tween television programs that aired in 2011 on Disney Channel, Disney XD, Nickleodeon and the Turner Cartoon Network. Gerding and Nancy Signorielli, professor of communication at the University of Delaware, examined more than 200 characters in terms of their attractiveness, gender-related behavior and personality characteristics such as bravery or ability to handle technology.

Study results showed that gender distribution in the teen scene genre mirrors the overall male-female distribution in the U.S. population; however, males outnumbered females by more than 3 to 1 in the action-adventure genre.

The study has been published in the journal Sex Roles.