Children's comprehension of family role portrayals in televised dramas: Effects of socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and age

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578 middle and lower socioeconomic status (SES), Black and White children in Grades 2, 5, and 8 participated in 2 fully-crossed replications of the same design. They viewed 1 of 2 edited television dramas that portrayed either a White middle-class family (Study 1) or a Black working-class family (Study 2) in similar conflict resolution situations. Ss' comprehension of central (plot-essential) and peripheral content and their inferences about actors' emotions and causes of action were assessed. Memory for content was age-related in both studies. However, in Study 1, middle-SES 2nd graders viewing the middle-class family show scored higher than lower-SES 2nd graders. In Study 2 lower-SES 2nd graders who viewed the working-class family show achieved higher scores than their middle-class counterparts. There were no SES effects among 5th- and 8th-grade participants and no consistent effects of ethnicity at any age. Additional analyses indicated that congruence between televised characters and settings and viewers' own experiences, as indicated by SES, facilitated 2nd graders' processing of program content. Implications of age-related processing skills for social effects of TV are discussed. (20 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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