How TV Views Fathers Often Not Entertaining

By McManus, Michael J. | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 9, 2001 | Go to article overview

How TV Views Fathers Often Not Entertaining


McManus, Michael J., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Nearly four of 10 children in America live in homes without their biological fathers, reports the National Fatherhood Initiative.

"When children grow up without an involved, committed and responsible father, not only are they at greater risk for a myriad of educational, health, emotional and psychological problems, but they also lack an important role model as to what a good father is and does," the group says.

Given widespread fatherlessness, "For millions of children the only portrayal of what a father is and how a father should behave is found on television," says NFI President Wade Horn.

What image of fatherhood is being projected? It is not "Honor thy father and mother."

To find out, NFI taped and reviewed every prime-time TV show on the six major networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, UPN and WB) during March and April for a report,"Fatherhood and Television: An Evaluation of Fatherhood Portrayals on Prime Time Television."

The major finding is "an overabundance of bad dads." Television fathers are eight times more likely than mothers to be portrayed negatively (26 percent of TV dads vs. 3 percent of moms). Dads are shown to be involved with their children, but incompetent. They spend time with their children but are ineffective in what sociologists call "authoritative parenting," providing emotional support for their children, praising them for their accomplishments and disciplining them for misbehavior.

mTelevision dads are

shown to be involved

with their children,

but incompetent. They

spend time with their

children but are

ineffective in what

sociologists call

"authoritative

parenting."

On the plus side, fathers usually are married to the mothers, and there are shows that are very positive, such as NBC's "Daddio," Fox's "Get Real" and CBS' "Diagnosis Murder." The most positive motherhood portrayals were on NBC's "Freaks & Geeks" and ABC's "Once & Again" and "Lily."

Compared to mothers' portrayals, dads were shown in a negative light on such programs as "Family Law" and "Third Watch," which feature divorced dads. The majority of negative portrayals of fathers are on comedies, particularly cartoons such as "Family Guy," "King of the Hill" and "The Simpsons," where fathers are hopelessly incompetent. Homer Simpson's bumbling attempts at fatherhood are often hilarious. These shows are often satirical, depicting what not to do as a father.

Aletha Houston of the University of Kansas reports, "Children who watch violent shows, even funny cartoons, are more likely to hit out [than] their playmates, [to] argue, disobey class rules and leave tasks unfinished and are less willing to wait for things than those who watched nonviolent programs. …

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