The Implications of Vantage Point in Parental Mediation of Television and Child's Attitudes toward Drinking Alcohol

By Fujioka, Yuki; Austin, Erica Weintraub | Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, September 2003 | Go to article overview

The Implications of Vantage Point in Parental Mediation of Television and Child's Attitudes toward Drinking Alcohol


Fujioka, Yuki, Austin, Erica Weintraub, Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media


Many scholars have reported substantial disagreement and variance in interpretation when parents and a child report family interactions, including family communication styles (Austin, 1992, 1993b; Ritchie & Fitzpatrick, 1990; Tein, Roosa, & Michaels, 1994; Tims & Masland, 1985) and media-related interactions such as behavior surrounding television (e.g., Greenberg, Ericson, & Vlahos, 1971; Rossiter & Robertson, 1975; Van den Buick & Van den Bergh, 2000). These reports raise an important question about the literature of parental mediation, which suggests that parents can play a crucial role by mediating possible influences of television on children (e.g., Austin, 2001; Austin, Pinkleton, & Fujioka, 2000; Desmond, Singer, Singer, Calam, & Colimore, 1985; Nathanson, 1999; Valkenburg, Krcmar, Peeters, & Marseille, 1999; Van den Buick & Van den Bergh, 2000). Although recent research has stressed the importance of children's perspectives when examining family television interaction (e.g., Austin, 1993b; Nathanson, 2001a; Van den Buick & Van den Bergh, 2000), most studies have depended heavily on parents' self-reports of mediation behavior when examining mediation effects on a child. Recent research (Nathanson, 2001a), however, reported a weak correspondence between parents' reports and children's reports about parental mediation even when they were asked to describe it in a specific context. The implications of scholars' reliance on child or parent reports, therefore,

require further investigation.

Accordingly, this study examines mediation effects from both the children's and parents' perspectives. It addresses the following two issues regarding parental mediation: (a) the extent of agreement/disagreement between parent's and child's reports on parental mediation behavior; and (b) which mediation reports better predict relevant outcomes--more specifically, a child's attitudes toward drinking alcohol. The child's attitudes toward alcohol are investigated because this is one of the dependent variables that have been examined in the mediation literature (e.g., Austin et al., 2000).

The goal of this study is not to determine who (either parent or child) can provide more accurate or honest reports about parental mediation, but rather to clarify whose perspective should be taken into account in a given context (e.g., evaluating the effectiveness of parental mediation or exploring parent's motives underlying mediation behavior). This clarification is important because it may help improve the internal validity of research to achieve a better understanding of parental mediation and outcomes. In addition, some of the findings offered by this study are of practical use. For instance, this study reveals what type of mediation behavior seems easy or difficult for parents and a child to discuss. This information may be beneficial for media educators and practitioners to develop better media literacy programs through which parents may learn how their mediation efforts can be effectively internalized as intended by a child.

Parental Influence and Mediation

The literature has indicated four possible routes through which parents influence the effects of media messages on their children. These include (a) rule-making strategies (restricting a child's television viewing); (b) active mediation (critical discussion with a child); (c) parent-child general communication norms (McLeod & Chaffee, 1972); and (d) parental modeling (Austin, 2001; Desmond et al., 1985). Although coviewing often has been considered as a direct intervention analogous to mediation, some have suggested that it may relate more to parental modeling (Austin, 2001). Coviewing is a parental act of viewing television with a child, which can be applied to any situation in which a primary caregiver and a child watch television together. Active mediation, however, refers to an occurrence of parent-child discussion regarding television messages, through which parents provide explanations and clarifications of television content to their children. …

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