All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

David C Schwebel

Advisory Committee Members

Fred J Biasini

Edwin W Cook Iii

Jessica H Mirman

Document Type

Thesis

Date of Award

2020

Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of injury and death among children in the United States. A variety of behavioral factors place children at heightened risk for injury. Risky play is one of these factors. This study investigated factors that might lead to risky play. Specifically, some scholars argue that we are currently amidst the “Golden Age of Superhero Movies,” and multiple sources of evidence suggest children as young as four-years-old are exposed to superhero television shows and adult-themed movies with great frequency. The current study evaluated children’s exposure to risk behaviors present in superhero media and how those risk behaviors might influence risk-taking behavior among child viewers. We also considered the role of prosocial behavior in superhero-themed media, and the role of parental supervision on risk-taking, and whether children’s behavior might be influenced by the presence of a parental supervisor. Participants included 59 children aged 4-6-years-old. Participants were randomly assigned to either a superhero group or neutral group. Children in the superhero condition watched a 13-minute episode of a popular children’s superhero show (PJ Masks), and children in the neutral condition watched a 13-minute episode of a popular children’s show without superhero content. Risk-taking outcomes were measured using four risk-taking measures: vignette task, picture sorting task, virtual reality task, and activity room task. Prosocial outcomes were measured using two tasks: vignette task and the Adapted Social Emotional Character Development Scale (SECDS). Risk-taking and prosocial behavior did not differ between the superhero and neutral exposure groups. Supervision only impacted risk-taking in one of the risk-taking outcomes, picture sort, with increased supervision associated with reduced child risk-taking. Results suggest superhero media may not immediately increase risk-taking or prosocial behavior among children exposed to a single superhero-themed television episode. Further, supervision quality appears to differentially impact risk-taking, decreasing risk when the supervision is active and attentive. As superhero media continues to grow in popularity, future research is needed to better understand the potential underlying dynamics between media, risk-taking behavior, and prosocial behavior.

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