Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Center for Public Policy

First Advisor

Janet Hutchinson


This project used a content analysis methodology to determine the agenda-setting capacity of the media to influence child welfare legislation in a state legislature. With a foundation in agenda-setting theory, this study identifies how the coverage of child abuse and neglect in the print media impacts decision-makers to introduce legislation related to child abuse and neglect. Through a comparison of the issues covered in the newspaper with the issues receiving legislative attention, this study showed that media influence varies by topic, with some topics being more open to media affects than others. A second component of this study analyzed how child abuse and neglect is portrayed in four newspapers circulating across the state. With an emphasis on identifying the types of issues that receive media attention in Virginia, this qualitative study showed key themes and patterns prevalent in child welfare coverage. The media demonstrates an affinity for covering episodic, micro-level instances of abuse, and thematic, macro-level systemic issues. These findings show media focus is concentrated on extreme and unusual cases of abuse and those issues that will evoke shock and emotion from the reader.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

December 2008