The Changing Portrayal of Adolescents in the Media Since 1950

The Changing Portrayal of Adolescents in the Media Since 1950

The Changing Portrayal of Adolescents in the Media


Adolescents are eager consumers of mass media entertainment and are particularly susceptible to various forms of media influence, such as modeling, desensitization, and contagion. These once controversial phenomena are now widely accepted along with the recognition that the media are a major socializer of youth.

During the economic boom of the post-World War II era, marketers and advertisers identified adolescents as a major audience, which led to the emergence of a pervasive youth culture. Enormous changes ensued in the media’s portrayal of adolescents and the behaviors they emulate. These changes were spurred by increased availability and consumption of television, which joined radio, film, and magazines as major influence on youth. Later, the rapid growth of the video game industry and the internet contributed to the encompassing presence of the media. Today, opportunities for youthful expression about to the point where adolescents can easily create and disseminate content with little control by traditional media gatekeepers.

In The Changing Portrayals of Adolescents in the Media since 1950 , leading scholars analyze the emergence of youth culture in music and powerful trends in gender and ethnic-racial representation, sexuality, substance use, violence, and suicide portrayed in the media. This book illuminates the evolution of teen portrayal, the potential consequences of these changes, and the ways policy-makers and parents can respond.



Table of Contents

Introduction:   Mass Media and the Socialization of Adolescents Since World War II

Daniel Romer


Part I              The Emergence and Evolution of a Youth Culture in the Media

Chapter 1:       Understanding the “Jackpot Market”: Media, Marketing, and the Rise of the American Teenager

Bill Osgerby

Chapter 2:       “Still Talking About My Generation!” The Representation of Youth in Popular Music

Andy Bennett

Chapter 3:       Music Videos: Media of the Youth, by the Youth, for the Youth

Michael Rich


Part II             Portrayal of Adolescents and Influential Behaviors

Chapter 4:       It Matters What Young People Watch: Health Risk Behaviors Portrayed in Top-Grossing Movies Since 1950

Patrick E. Jamieson, Eian More, Susan S. Lee, Peter Busse, and Daniel Romer

Chapter 5:       Adolescent Gender Role Portrayals in the Media: 1950 to the Present

Jennifer L. Walsh and L. Monique Ward

Chapter 6:       Adolescent Body Image and Eating in the Media: Trends and Implications for Adolescent Health

Kristen Harrison

Chapter 7:       African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans in the Media: Implications for Adolescents

Carolyn A. Stroman and Jannette L. Dates

Chapter 8:       Adolescents and Television Violence

W. James Potter

Chapter 9:       Tobacco Portrayals in U.S. Advertising and Entertainment Media

Timothy Dewhirst

Chapter 10:     The Changing Portrayal of Alcohol Use in Television Advertising

Jennifer Horner, Patrick E. Jamieson, and Daniel Romer

Chapter 11:     From Twin Beds to Sex at Your Fingertips: Teen Sexuality in Movies, Music, Television, and the Internet, 1950-2005

Susannah Stern and Jane D. Brown


Part III                       Evolving Forms of Media Influence

Chapter 12:     The Games, They Are a-Changin’: Technological Advancements in Video Games and Implications for Effects on Youth

James D. Ivory

Chapter 13:     Adolescents and the Internet

 Linda A. Jackson


Part IV                       Policy Implications for Healthy Adolescent Development

Chapter 14:     Policy Interventions

C. Edwin Baker

Chapter 15:     Conclusion

Patrick E. Jamieson, Amy Jordan, and Daniel Romer 


Here are some dramatic U.S. movie trends from our CHAMP data. More information can be found in The Changing Portrayal of Adolescents in the Media since 1950 (Oxford, 2008). This Amazon.com link takes you to it.

Figure 1a. Mean proportion of young major characters (under age 21) in films with fitted trend from 1950 to 2004.

Figure 1b. Mean proportions of male major characters in films with fitted trend from 1950 to 2004.

Figure 1c. Mean percentage of film segments containing tobacco use in top 30 U.S. films (right axis) and U.S. per capita consumption of tobacco for ages 18 and older (left axis) from 1950 to 2004.
Source: For 1950-1995: Tobacco Situation and Outlook Report, U.S.D.A., April 1996 and September 1987. Miller, R. U.S. cigarette consumption, 1900 to date. 
In: Harr W, ed. Tobacco yearbook, 1981-page 53. For 1996-2004: 
Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, Monthly Statistical Release – Tobacco Products, Bureau of the Census, Population Estimates

Figure 1d. Mean percentage of segments with violence in top-30 films (right axis) and homicide rates for young people ages 15 to 24 (left axis) from 1950 to 2004.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics.

Figure 1e. Mean suicide explicitness in films ranked 1 to 15 (right axis) and U.S. youth suicide rates for ages 15-24 (left axis) from 1950-2004.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics, and CHAMP