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Effects of Authoritative Male and Female Cartoon Characters on Children Casey Smial Mount St Mary’s University Abstract A study was conducted to determine the extent to which gender roles are prevalent in children’s cartoons. This current study examines the relationship between male and female positions of authority in children’s cartoons. A group of 24 college aged students (4 male, 20 female) in Research Methods and Statistics at Mount St. Mary’s University participated in the study. The researcher analyzed several different children’s cartoons to determine the extent of gender roles.
The findings conclude the hypothesis to be correct. Males not only appear in cartoons more than females, but they also appear in more positions of authority than females do.
Effects of Authoritative Male and Female Cartoon Characters on Children When looking at the differences in gender roles in the real world, we see males tend to take jobs that are more authoritative and women holding jobs with more of a nurturing status.
Where do these gender roles stem from? Studies have shown that children spend an exorbitant amount of time each week in front of the television. It is reported that children ranging between ages two to five watched TV for more than 32 hours a week. Kids ages six to eight watched television 28 hours a week. From this we can conclude that children retain the information the shows are displaying from a young age.
If the characters in the television cartoons (change) children are watching visibly display gender roles, children are likely to pick up and inherent those gender roles at a young age.
They then assume the gender roles displayed on television are typical in the real world. Teresa L. Thompson and Eugenia Zerbinos conducted a study in 1997 to better understand what children were picking up and internalizing when watching television. They interviewed children ranging in age four to nine from three different locations. After having children watch cartoons the researchers concluded that 78% of children stated there were more boys in cartoons than girls. 12% found there were more girls and 10% thought there was no difference in the number of male and female characters. They were also asked questions concerning what typical behavior the characters are supposed to be displaying. For boys, there were 60 behaviors that depicted silly or amusing.
There were 46 violent, 32 active, one stereotypical male behavior, and 12 tasks related and only one female behavior. This research brings us to the conclusion that children do realize gender differences in cartoons. In Jennifer Aubrey and Kristen Harrison’s (2004) study they discuss how “heavy television viewers interact with other potential sources of information, ideas and consciousness, including, interactions with parents and other adult figures and peers. Television may be more influential than parents and peers because it offers more commonly and widely shared messages than other sources of information”. In this study the researchers examined the number of minor male and female characters. They found that male minor characters also outweigh female characters.
They also found that males were more likely to engage in activities involving communication, and female characters were typically frailer and thinner. Arma and Gökçearslan discuss findings in “The effect of cartoon movies on children’s gender development.” She states “It is seen that one of the two genders is reflected as being dominant while the other is insignificant in the TV programs. Especially, male characters are more dominant than female characters.” She also concludes that male characters are “attached more importance in cartoon movies” and female characters “reflected either as sexual objects or as being unemployed”. The purpose of the current study is to identify the extent of gender roles in cartoon characters.
The hypothesis includes that in all cartoon’s male character tend to be seen in more positions of authority than female character. This creates real life stereotypes in the children watching the cartoons. Method Participants 24 college students, four males, and 20 females in Research Methods and Statistics at Mount St. Mary’s University, a small liberal arts college located in Emmitsburg Maryland. Materials The research used a computer to watch a cartoon from 2008 to present. They recorded the findings with pencil and paper. The operation definitions for these each of these behaviors is as followed. Domestic roles include parents, people displaying caring and nurturing behavior. For aggression, harsh behavior, hitting, smacking, yelling, causing distressing others or turning red.
Rescuing others includes, displaying heroic acts being brave, or pulling someone out of danger. For submission the operational definition is being seen agreeing with others. The operational definition for passivity is not arguing with others, going with the flow. The operational definition for being rescued is viewed as helpless, weak or independent. For comic roles the character can be see laughing, making other’s laugh or cause you to laugh. Positions of authority included teachers’ police or parents. People who seem to have say over others. The operational definition for emotional is characterized by crying or mood changes, being concerned with physical appearance, being vain, or looking in the mirror constantly.
Procedure The students were asked to pick and watch an age-appropriate children’s cartoon that aired from 2008 to present. The cartoon the researcher chose was Phineas and Ferb (2007-2015). While watching, students were asked to count the number of times male and female characters displayed gender roles. These gender roles include, positions of domestic roles, aggression, rescuing others, submission, passivity, being rescued, comic roles, potions of authority and emotion. While watching the cartoon the researcher used the operational definitions to tally up the number of times each gender, male or female, displayed each role. One of these roles was chosen by the researcher and further examined. Authority was chosen for future examination for gender roles in cartoon characters.
Results The hypothesis that in all cartoon’s male character tend to be seen in more positions of authority than female character was supported. The twenty-four participants were asked to record their data. After analyzing the data of authority figures in the cartoon, it was found that males are presented in positions of authority almost twice as much as females are. As seen in Figure two males, (M=3.125, SD=2.01) and females (M=1.60, SD=1.74). (p< 0.05). Males are seen in more positions of authority. Discussion The goal of this study was to show the extent to which gender roles are prevalent in children’s cartoons.
As shown in previous studies gender roles between male and female cartoon characters are prevalent not only with main characters but with minor characters as well. Children also seem to be able to earlier pick up and understand the gender roles. At the beginning of this study we hypothesized that in all cartoon’s male characters tend to be seen in more positions of authority than female characters. After collecting data, the researcher found the hypothesis was supported. It is recommended that there be roughly 30 participants in each study. The current study only had 24 participants. The results may have been more reliable had the study had more participants. Something to note for future research would be to look at the age of the characters in the cartoons being examined and the relationship of their age to their behavior.
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