The impact of the video cassette recorder on media use within families of urban dwellers

Worringham, Richard
Major Professor
Robert B. Schafer
Committee Member
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Sociology and Anthropology

VCR ownership is growing at a fast pace in the US, yet little is known about its impact upon the family. The impact of the VCR may be analyzed in terms of three interrelated aspects of family life, decision making, normative development and media choices. Believing that VCR's impact upon the family might vary according to status, role, sex, age and education of its members, a random telephone survey of parents and children in the City of Ames, Iowa, was designed to measure the differences of parent and child perceptions and their agreement of disagreement about the impact of the VCR upon family decisions, rules and choices. The resulting data were treated in four ways: firstly, a global view of parent's and children's perceptions was obtained through summary statistics; secondly, variables were crosstabulated, controlling for status, sex and grade in order to make comparisons between classes; thirdly, paired parent/child responses were crosstabulated to determine how much agreement there was in families; fourthly, associations between decision making, normative development and media choice variables were tested. Relationships between parents' and childrens' perceptions were tested by means of Pearson correlation coefficients and the Lambda statistic; agreement between parent/child pairs was tested by means of Scheaffer's confidence interval formula and Dale's agreement scale. Associations between decision making, normative development and media choice variable were tested with Pearson correlations, chi-square tests and the gamma statistic. Analysis shows that parents' and childrens' perceptions are often polarized and vary according to different aspects of decision making, normative development and media choices within the family. Agreement between paired parents and children also varies in strength according to decisions, rules and choices. What similarities and agreements there are, are most evident in media choices but less so in decision making and normative development. Though many families have developed norms of television use, the use of the VCR is either subsumed under them or free of regulation in most families. Analysis of data outlined above has been strongly influenced by the insights of coorientation and convergence theory. Perspectives of exchange theory and field theory have been used to discuss the implications of the research findings.