American adolescents watch an average of 3.5 hours of television and movies everyday; many attend more than one movie a month. Adolescents as a group watch more movies than any other group of the population, yet little research has been done on what is shown in teen movies. Adolescence is a time when values, beliefs, and opinions are formed and the media has been found to be a place that adolescents find information that can influence the construction of these identities. While there has been a vast amount of research looking at the family as portrayed on television shows, there has been little research done on film families. More specifically, there has not been an examination of the family as seen in movies targeted towards the teen audience. Through the use of a content analysis, this thesis reviews three decades of families as depicted in teen films, focusing specifically on five areas: family structure, ethnicity, occupation and children, socio-economic status, and parental depictions. This thesis includes a sample of the 90 top-grossing teen movies made during the 1980s, 1990s, and the 2000s (2000-2007) and includes a total of 139 different families. Results indicate that the typical family as depicted in a teen movie, is a middle-class, Caucasian, dual or single-parent family with one or two children; dad is a working professional and mom stays at home. The parents are adequate in their parenting skills and are authoritative in their parenting style. The results of this thesis are compared to findings of past studies regarding television families and against U.S. census data. The implications of the results of this thesis are discussed through the lens of cultivation theory.



College and Department

Fine Arts and Communications; Communications



Date Submitted


Document Type





film families, media families, movie families, teen movies, teen films, family portrayals, family portrayals in the media, family portrayals in movies, family portrayals in film, content analysis



Included in

Communication Commons