Campus: CSU Fullerton -- November 02, 2001

Cal State Fullerton's studies: Research to Examine Television's Influence on Teens

The impact of television on adolescents' sexual behavior is the focus of a multiyear research effort funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Enid L. Gruber, assistant professor of child and adolescent studies, is directing Cal State Fullerton's studies on the subject.

"Our intent is to see whether kids 11-16 years of age are exposed to sexual images or language in the television media and are in some way impacted by that media," said Gruber, who received $182,777 in first-year funding from the five-year grant of $927,571.

One facet of the research is a longitudinal survey of 1,000 adolescents and their parents from Northern and Southern California. Participants will be asked questions to determine how much adolescents are exposed to sexual content via the media and how well parents supervise what their children see. Beginning this fall, researchers also will analyze television programming and the kinds of materials produced on network and cable.

"There has been a fair amount of research on kids' exposure to violence," said Gruber. "Past research has shown that kids' media exposure to violence may cause them to model that behavior. "They see it and try to mimic it and get a response." Any possible relevance that research holds for the impact of television on adolescents' sexual behavior is of interest to the research team.

Collaborating with Gruber are Joel Grube of the Prevention Research Center in Berkeley and Deborah Fisher of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation.

Gruber hopes to learn if and how much influence the media have on adolescent attitudes,
intentions and actual sexual behavior. This knowledge, she believes, could assist in determining whether interventions are indicated and lead to their development to assist parents in supervising their children's media consumption.

Gruber joined the Cal State Fullerton faculty last year and holds a doctorate in psychology from the University of Michigan. She is presently teaching a course on adolescence and early adulthood, as well as a senior seminar examining the at-risk adolescent.


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