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Expanding the third person effect: Parents' perceptions of positive and negative media effects on their own children compared to other children

Andrea M Bergstrom, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Abstract

One hundred and sixty-six parents of children ranging from three to eleven years of age completed the questionnaire designed for this research project to investigate parental perceptions of their own children compared to other children in order to examine the Third Person Effect. Quantitative results reveal that parents hold third person perceptions in regard to certain types of media content, specifically television violence and sexually explicit content, but not television commercials. Evidence for the social distance corollary was also found in relation to both television violence and sexually explicit content, as parental respondents perceived their own children as less affected in relation to other children at increasing social distances. Findings also indicate that parents hold first person perceptions, perceiving their own children to be more influenced by education television programming than other children in general. These results lend support for the self-enhancement hypothesis, providing evidence that parents extend their own self-enhancing tendencies onto their children. ^ The research also revealed interesting findings in relation to race and socioeconomic status. Specifically, Caucasian respondents reported greater prejudiced views regarding perceptions of influence from television violence than did non-white respondents. Additionally, respondents earning lower annual incomes reported that children from poor or working class families were more likely to be influenced by all three types of negative media content than did higher earning respondents. Parental rulemaking practices as well as support for government regulation of media content were also examined, yet third person perceptions did not significantly contribute to these behaviors. ^

Subject Area

Mass communication

Recommended Citation

Bergstrom, Andrea M, "Expanding the third person effect: Parents' perceptions of positive and negative media effects on their own children compared to other children" (2011). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3445147.
http://scholarworks.umass.edu/dissertations/AAI3445147

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