Sexual Teens, Sexual Media: Investigating Media's Influence on Adolescent Sexuality. Jane D. Brown, Jeanne R. Steele, and Kim Walsh-- Childers, eds. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002.308 pp. $74.95 hbk. $29.95 pbk.
Often books covering such an important subject start out strong and end up disappointingly. When reading this book, I was continually surprised at the depth and breadth of material covered, its overall organization, its timeliness, and its focus on understanding an important subject: how media influence the sexuality of teens. The book begins with a detailed review of adolescence and what teenagers believe about their own attractiveness, sexual behaviors, orientation, diseases, pregnancy, and forced intercourse. The authors then go on to describe the influence of the media on these beliefs, including a model of "how teens choose and use media." In this section the authors also discuss types of media and their use by teens. Further, there is some discussion of theory, particularly Social Learning Theory and Cultivation Theory. These theories provide the foundation for the chapters that follow.
The chapters that follow are divided into three sections: television; magazines; and movies, music, and the Internet. Each chapter contains a study focused on these media. For example, Cope-Farrar and Kunkel in chapter three talk about "Sexual Messages in Teens' Favorite Prime-Time Television Programs" and Stern, in the final chapter, discusses findings from research on young women's Web pages. The greatest strength of these studies is the timeliness of other research cited within them. Most studies cited were from 1995-2000 to some that were "in press." This indicates that the writers are mindful of how teens may alter their use of media in different generations and makes the information in the text useful for current research on these media. Also, the inclusion of a chapter on the Internet demonstrates the comprehensiveness and timeliness of the information within the text.
Another strength is the inclusion of both quantitative and qualitative research. Scholars who look to this text for ideas on how to explore differing media can find a wide variety of methods that will assist them in their research design. Finally, and not least important, the chapters give valuable information regarding how teens use the differing media. For example, Treise and Gotthoffer in chapter eight discuss how magazines are primary sources of sexual health information for young women, and Walsh-Childers, Gotthoffer, and Ringer Lepre, in chapter seven, compare the amount of sexual health information contained in teen magazines as opposed to women's magazines. …