Wednesday, March 17, 2010

How The Media Affects Child Rearing in International Families

Child rearing has been greatly influenced by the media. Especially in the United States, international families have no choice but to look at how the media portrays them. Television shows such as “The Simpsons” portray international families in a certain way that may make a child watching the show think that this is how their life is supposed to be. A character on the show, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon is an Immigrant from India. He works in a convenience store even though he has a Ph. D. in computer science. He had an arranged marriage, even though Apu resisted this idea, and had eight children. This portrayal alone sends a certain message to children who are Indian Immigrants watching the show. Even if they work very hard in school, will they still end up working in a job similar to a convenience store? Also, not all Indians have arranged marriages and this sends a confusing message as to whether arranged marriages are a good or bad thing.
            According to an article on The Portrayal of Family on Television,
Minority families continue to struggle for representation and positive portrayals. Native Americans appear infrequently and are often stereotyped as alcoholics with impoverished, dysfunctional families. Latino families are underrepresented and often portrayed as lawbreakers with little education, but with strong family ties. Asian-American families rarely appear. In the 1990s, unmarried relationships and couples without children were more common than ever on television.”
Popular television shows such as “The Cosby Show” or “Roots” show African American families and sends a message to how they should act. The same goes for shows such as “The Goldbergs” that portrays a Jewish family. There are shows that are more diverse, classical favorites such as “I love Lucy” or modern shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy”.
            The difference in the amount of men and women as the lead role (or hero figure) is also an issue for all families but certainly affects international families. According to an editorial about Girls, Boys and Families, “The most comprehensive international analysis of children’s television to date reveals an unambiguous tendency: Of all the main characters on children’s TV only 32 % are female – in reality, however, women count for 51 % of the world’s population.” Many cultures already see the man as the more dominant figure and a lot of the media just continues to push that idea. Families may try to mimic the ideals that are shown by the media and try to rear their children based on how the media says they should be reared.
            Other media proponents such as commercials and news shows or articles, also depict people with different cultures and nationalities in a certain light. We hear about many more African American or Latino crimes committed than of other nationalities. Some commercials include all different nationalities of babies for things such as diapers or food while other commercials only show white babies. All of these things affect how families look at (and identify with) themselves. Does it matter how hard they work if they are going to just fall into the stereotype? Are certain diapers designated for certain nationalities? These issues are absorbed by all families at every moment and have an influence on how families act and choose to bring up their children.
           The media can be very confusing for international families because they are not the "typical" family (especially if they are international families living in the United States). They may assume this is the correct way to lead their family and rear their children if that is what if being portrayed by the media. 

Do you think that media has a role in international families and how they rear their children?
Do you think that the media could lead to discrimination, stereotypes or even jealousy of other nationalities? How so? 
How else does the media affect international families that were not talked about here?
 Television and The Family – The Portrayal Of Family On Television. (2010). Retrieved From:
Maya Gotz (2008). Retrieved From:

Posted by Carolyn Kaufman

This post was presented by: Annika Ecklund, Carolyn Kaufman, Sally Pitcher, Stephanie Vassillion, Karl Daruwala, Elissa May


  1. I do think that the media plays a role in international families and how they rear children. I think that the media tells families how their family life and parenting will play out before they even have children. Parents hear all these ideas about how to raise a child so they feel that that is what they must do in order to be a normal parent. I think that the media makes it hard to do what you personally feel is the right way to raise your children.

  2. I agree that the media plays a huge role in how people view themselves and their roles in society. The messages on TV are presented like facts, and therefore treated as facts by those who receive them. I think that it may especially be hard for a family adopting a child from a country and culture that they aren't familiar with. The parents might look to the media to try to understand the culture. For example, if they adopted a child from China or Japan, they may assume that the child will have an exceptional aptitude for academics because of the stereotypes portrayed in the media. This may put unrealistic pressure on the child they adopt.
    I also think that there are huge issues with identity and self acceptance in relation to the media. When certain nationalities are barely represented or negatively represented, the members of that nationality will have a harder time accepting themselves as a member of the dominant culture.

  3. The role of the media in people's views of reality really interests me. The media plays a huge part in how people view people of other races, especially when they do not interact with people of races different than their own. "We hear about many more African American or Latino crimes committed than of other nationalities." This is true and it causes people to believe that more crime is committed by those racial groups. George Gerbner coined the term "Mean World Syndrome" for a theory that watching violence/crime related TV convinces people that they are in more danger of being victim to a crime than they are. I believe reporters only mentioning the race of the criminal when they are not white adds a racial element to Mean World Syndrome.

    The media also plays a huge part in people's view of beauty and this can have an impact on people of different races. The Boston Globe published an article called "The line the new black Barbies won’t cross" by Francie Latour on October 25, 2009. The first sentnce of the article is, "In every black family, there are two kinds of daughters: daughters who have good hair and daughters who don’t." She goes on to say: "It’s the unspoken, elephant-in-the-room euphemism that remains as true today as it was during slavery: Straight hair is “good hair” because straight hair is white hair." The article talks about the horrors of the chemical straightening process and the how the media portrays only straight hair as being beautiful and what that means for people who do not have straight hair.