Framing Abuse: Media Influence and Public Understanding of Sexual Violence against Children/Violence in the Media: A Reference Handbook

Article excerpt

Framing Abuse: Media Influence and Public Understanding of Sexual Violence Against Children. Jenny Kitzinger. London and Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2004. 236 pp. $70.00 hbk. $22.95 pbk.

Violence in the Media: A Reference Handbook. Nancy Signorielli. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2005. 263 pp. $50.00 hbk.

Both of these books address one of the difficult social challenges of our time-protecting children. While Signorielli uses the era of dime novels to mark the beginning of concerns about the effect of violent media depictions on children, Kitzinger maintains that the awareness of sexual abuse against children only became part of the public's media agenda in the 1980s. And each author surmises that these threats (media violence, child sexual abuse) are often portrayed by the media as elusive and hard to recognize.

Both authors have years of participation in media research to their credit. As an original member of the Cultural Indicators Research Team primarily based at Annenberg, Pennsylvania, and led by George Gerbner, Signorielli has been conducting research related to cultivation theory for thirty years. Jenny Kitzinger began her research work as part of a feminist collective in Cambridge, England, during the 1980s, later joining the Glasgow University Media Group. She is currently at the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media, and Cultural Studies and is a proponent of New Media Influence Research, which "breaks from the survey and experimental tradition ... (to use) in-depth qualitative analysis ... and (examine) media representations and everyday ways of knowing about issues."

The presumed audiences for each book are different. As noted in the preface, the Reference Handbook is directed at an audience of high school students, undergraduates, parents, teachers, and the lay public. The Kitzinger book is likely more appropriate for advanced scholars of the media and those concerned about the social issue of children and sexual violence. In addition, Kitzinger's book certainly has implications for media professionals, especially journalists and the people that train them.

Both books provide historical overviews of dominant theories of media violence, which is expected. Signorielli includes social learning theory; priming, schemas, and scripts; disinhibition; cultivation theory; and catharsis. Kitzinger lists powerful media approaches (hypodermic model, behavioral effects tradition, cultivation, agenda setting, framing) and approaches empowering audiences (two-step flow, uses and gratifications, reception analysis, and audience decoding). Kitzinger includes a historical overview of domestic consumption processes, as well, and Signorielli includes quantitative research findings.

The Reference Handbook includes what's currently known about media violence; some of the problems inherent in studying it; and a chronology of legislative acts, hearings, and reports. In addition, there are brief biographical sketches of primary players in the arena of media violence (e.g., researchers, members of Congress, and activists) along with facts and figures from both the National Television Violence Study and the Cultural Indicators research.

As a resource book, the Reference Handbook is unsurpassed in providing a wide range of materials and information. Organizations and their Web sites are included, ranging from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Motion Picture Association of America, the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the TV-Turnoff Network. Sources for video and film resources for instructional or educational purposes are included (addresses, Web sites, e-mail contacts), as are print resources (government publications, text books, trade books, and research studies) along with their annotated bibliographies.

The two books diverge in their primary research methodological approaches. …