Parent versus Child Reports of Parental Advertising Mediation: Exploring the Meaning of Agreement

Article excerpt

The past 2 decades have witnessed an impressive rise in research investigating parental mediation of media content (for a review, see Austin, 2001). These studies have shown that parents and caregivers can reduce undesirable media effects, including television-induced aggression, fear, and risky sexual behavior (Buijzen, Walma van der Molen, & Sondij, 2007; Cantor, Sparks, & Hoffner, 1988; Nathanson, 1999, 2004; Nathanson & Cantor, 2000; Wilson & Donenberg, 2004), and advertising-induced responses, such as materialistic attitudes and parent-child conflict (Buijzen, 2007; Buijzen & Valkenburg, 2005; Fujioka & Austin, 2002). Although this research has produced a sophisticated body of knowledge, controversy exists regarding which is the more reliable source reporting media-related interactions: the parent or the child. Although both measures are common in the research literature, comparative studies have reported substantial disagreement between parent- and child-reported measures (Fujioka & Austin, 2002; Nathanson, 2001a; Rossiter & Robertson, 1975).

The observed disagreement between parent and child reports in mediation research concurs with research findings on more general types of family interactions (Ritchie & Fitzpatrick, 1990; Tims & Masland, 1985). Family communication theories generally attribute discrepant reports from family members to perceptual differences rather than to measurement error (Austin, 1992; Ritchie, 1991; Ritchie & Fitzpatrick, 1990). Research findings strongly suggest that the relatively weak correlations observed between parent and child reports of family interactions are due to systematic reporting differences. For instance, parents tend to report higher levels of interaction than do children (Rossiter & Robertson, 1975). Accordingly, Ritchie and Fitzpatrick (1990) have argued that parent-child agreement or disagreement in reporting family communication can be taken as an indicator of actual perceptual differences among family members.

In line with this argument, family communication research has shown that the level of parent-child agreement in reporting family interactions may depend on a number of factors, including general family communication style, the child's age, and the child's sex (Ritchie & Fitzpatrick, 1990). Parent and child factors that increase understanding between the parent and the child can explain these differential findings. For instance, older children are more capable of understanding family interactions, while communication-oriented parents put more effort into explaining their actions and intentions (Ritchie & Fitzpatrick, 1990). In other words, child perceptions of family communication relate to parent perceptions more closely among parent-child dyads with a higher level of mutual understanding.

As yet, this meaningful interpretation of parent-child agreement has not been investigated in research on media-related family interactions. The aim of the present study is to further explore agreement between parent and child reports of parental mediation. In a parent-child survey, parental mediation of children's responses to advertising is examined. Parents have been shown to be able to reduce the undesired effects of advertising by actively explaining the purpose and nature of advertising (Buijzen & Valkenburg, 2005; Fujioka & Austin, 2003; Wiman, 1983). (1) However, most studies examining parental advertising mediation have relied exclusively on parent reports, while child reports of parental mediation are also included here.

The only study that compared parent and child reports of advertising mediation found a moderate correlation (r = .20) between the two measures (Fujioka & Austin, 2003). In addition, mediation reported by children in this study predicted children's responses to advertising more strongly than did parent-reported mediation. On the basis of this finding, the authors argued that child reports of parental mediation signify children's perceptions of their parents' mediation activities and thus might be an important predictor of the mediation outcome. …