Family-formatted situation comedies involve characters who are members of the same family and interact primarily with each other. These programs are routinely cited by children as among their favorite television series. A content analysis was conducted to examine the nature of emotional presentations in family-formatted sitcoms that are popular among children. The sample included six consecutive weeks of 1992 programming taken from the five most popular prime-time family sitcoms among 2- to 11-year-olds. Results revealed that family sitcoms prominently feature child characters in the major storyline and focus on common emotions and emotional situations. In terms of emotional depictions, family sitcoms frequently center on emotions such as fear and anger and on negative emotional events. Emotions were strongly related to two contextual factors: type of plot (main plot, subplot) and type of character (featured, nonfeatured). Featured characters in the main plot were the most likely of all characters to exhibit negative emotions, whereas nonfeatured characters in the main plot were the most likely of all characters to ignore the negative feelings of others. The findings also revealed that humor more often accompanied negative emotions than positive emotions. The results are discussed in terms of children's information processing of family sitcoms and television's role as a socializing agent in emotional development.
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