Emotions and television

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Have and Show Emotions – What Children and Adolescents Feel in their Everyday Lives and When Watching Television (2014)

The emotional worlds of children and adolescents are an extremely complex field and statistically very difficult to measure. If we then add to this the question of their emotional mental state when watching television, and try to measure this in an international comparison, the complexities multiply. To at least establish a first approach – particularly also for the purpose of advisory work in the international context –, the IZI undertook two comprehensive studies with partners from around the world. In line with the experts’ general view that children and adolescents should be taken seriously and given a voice in the research too, especially when it comes to their own mental state, we asked children and adolescents directly about their everyday lives and the emotions they experienced when watching television. In addition, we asked them to what extent they express these emotions, whether they think their parents approve of openly expressing particular emotions, and what their expectations of television characters are.   

Study 1: First of all, 1,458 children and adolescents between the ages of 6 and 19– a representative sample – were interviewed across the whole of Germany (carried out by IconKids & Youth, Munich).
Study 2: In collaboration with colleagues from across the world, the same questions were put to 4,180 children and pre-teens between the ages of 6 and 15 from 16 different countries. Together with the data from the sample of 6 to 15 year-olds, this produced a data corpus of n=5,190 children and adolescents.

Results: The results reveal, to a certain extent, statistically significant, clear percentage differences in terms of gender and age. Interestingly, there are no explicit differences with regard to education and parental financial situation. Children and adolescents with a migration background mostly indicate that they feel things more intensely, except when it comes to the question of being proud of themselves. Children with a migration background feel this less, whereas adolescents feel it more, than their peers who do not come from culturally diverse families.
Worldwide, the emotion most frequently experienced is joy, followed by the emotions of fear and pride. The emotions of sadness, envy and rage are experienced less frequently. Furthermore, the majority of children and pre-teens assume that their parents particularly approve of showing the emotions of pride and joy. The comparison between the genders also shows that girls show emotions such as fear, grief and rage more frequently than boys. Boys, however, are more likely to be proud of themselves. Younger children laugh and cry more often than older ones, but they are less likely to experience the emotion of rage. In addition, as children grow older, they are more likely to feel envious. 
When it comes to television, children and pre-teens expect TV characters to be honest about their emotions. In relation to the emotions they experience and express themselves, the children and adolescents interviewed expect television characters to show their emotions even more openly than they themselves do. In this context, the older ones in particular demand more emotion from television characters.

Götz, Maya; Schwarz, Judith: Having and showing emotions. An international study on children's and adolescents' emotions and their expression. TelevIZIon, 27/2014/E, 10-13.