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The socializing effect that television has on child viewers is incredibly important to childhood development – research shows that children can model roles and behaviors that they observe on television – and this power to condition children’s minds to a television-based view of reality can influence children’s conceptions of gender, stereotype, and diversity. Children exposed to television media will base their conceptions of the world on what they’ve seen, usually animated cartoon shows with highly stereotyped characters in fairly set roles (Barcus 1983, Bandura, 2002). The purpose of this paper is to review research on the subject of gender roles in animated children’s media and, using this research, to gauge whether or not animated children’s television programming consistently portrays heteronormative gender stereotypes as “normal” as well as whether or not children may mimic or model the stereotypical behavior (in regards to gender roles and expression) that they have observed. I have examined eight sources so far; two examine the nature of the television industry and the modern animation industry, two are analyses of previous research done on the subject of TV affecting socialization, three are original research articles which survey the content of animated children’s TV shows (with one describing adult reactions to the show being researched), and one article which surveys the history of a more educational animated show and its influence. The results so far indicate that animated TV shows definitely show gender stereotypes and stereotypical behavior (Bresnahan et al., 2003); coupled with the years of research that show how children react to television at different ages (Kirkorian et al., 2008), there is an obvious missing link of research between the two which will show how children actually react to said gender stereotypes and heteronormative behaviors. More research will be needed, but I am sure that there are articles available that specifically track children’s reactions to gender stereotypes in animated media – and will likely indicate that children will end up mimicking and modeling the behavior they’ve seen on TV. With this research in mind, the heads of the television industry could thus initiate changes – either in regulation or in choices made in hiring/etc. – to change what may be harmful stereotypes present in their products, to make cartoon shows more applicable to real life and more well-rounded so that the children influenced by them will not end up with harmful misconceptions about gender and gender representation.
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Virginia Commonwealth University. Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program
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VCU Undergraduate Research Posters
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