Television and the American Family

By Jennings Bryant | Go to book overview

Chapter 1
Evolution in the Family's Use
of Television: Normative Data
From Industry and Academe

Margaret S. Andreasen University of Wisconsin-Madison

The problem with television is that people must sit and keep their eyes
glued on a screen; the average American family hasn't time for it.
Therefore, the showmen are convinced that for this reason, if no
other, television will never be a serious competitor of broadcasting.

-- Dunlap ( 1939, p. 12)

And while myriad island audiences gather nightly around their sets,
much as cave-dwelling ancestors gathered around the fire, for warmth
and safety and a feeling of togetherness, now, with more and more
two-TV families, a member of the family can actually withdraw and
watch in complete privacy.

-- Boorstin ( 1971, p. 36)

The family system can be seen to include the family unit and the television. Family members interact with each other and with the television, both individually and as a family unit.
-- Goodman ( 1983, p. 408)

Dismissed by a few as frivolous, feared or rejected by others for its seeming power over families and family life, television nevertheless has been adopted by almost every family in the land. In 1986-1987, 98% of American homes had television sets turned on an average of 7 hours and 5 minutes each day ( Broadcasting/Cablecasting Yearbook, 1988). In 1987-1988 "the average American home" watched television for a slightly shorter time--6 hours and 59 minutes ( Broadcasting/Cablecasting Yearbook, 1989); the estimated number of television households, however, increased between January 1989 and January 1990 by more than 1.7 million ( Nielsen Station Index, 1988, 1989).

-3-

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