Television and the American Family

By Jennings Bryant | Go to book overview

Preface I

The American family is nearly 500 years old. Television is less than 50. Yet in the relatively brief time since the old timer has been invaded by the upstart, incredible changes in family life have taken place. An increasingly common claim is that many of these changes have been precipitated by or at least accelerated by television. Certainly it is safe to say that television has become the primary focal point of the modern American family's leisure time. As some have said, the glowing embers of our American hearths have been extinguished by television's cool fire. What difference has television's presence made in family life? What impact has television had on the family?

Bold claims that television is having tremendous impact on the family abound. In fact, the notion that television is wrecking the family is one of the most popular sensationalistic thema of the modern popular press. "My Family Was Addicted to TV" ( 1988), bemoans a Good Housekeeping headline. "Can TV Cause Divorce?" ( 1987), explores a TV Guide lead, adding in a titillating subhead: "This psychiatrist believes that television has profound effects on married couples at their most intimate moments." The front cover of another TV Guide promises to reveal "How TV Is Shaking Up the American Family" ( 1988).

What does research say regarding such perennially popular questions and flamboyant accusations? A primary purpose of this book is to organize the research evidence that addresses these and related questions and present summaries of the revealing findings. In attempting to be as authoritative as possible, I have called on authors who are among the principle contributors to primary research in their respective domains of expertise on this topic. Through their chapters, we have tried to be relatively comprehensive and to (a) provide a historical overview and summary of normative data on television and family, (b) present evidence as to

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