This study provides a content analysis of television families portrayed in family-focused programs aired between 2004 and 2013. The analysis focuses on family configuration type, parent type and marital status, and the frequency and gender of children characters, as well as each program's genre, channel type, and target audience. The study uses cultivation theory as the basis of understanding and aims to anticipate television's potential effects and raise important questions that should be addressed in future studies. Results indicate that the traditional nuclear family configuration held the largest portion of the television family landscape. The study found an increase in single-parent families and a decrease in reconstituted families portrayed on television. Significantly, the content analysis revealed a new family configuration type that had not been identified in previous studies: nuclear with same-sex parents. The study found more single mothers than single fathers and discovered that single mothers had significantly fewer male children, pointing out a potential issue in terms of single-parent gender. The content analysis found more male children than female children; however, four years of data included more females than males, indicating possible movement toward equal representation of both genders. This study calls out the importance of educating young television audiences regarding the increasing complexity of the modern-day television family. The potential cultivation effect of family-related television programming could affect society's views of the importance of family—an issue that should be explored in future research. Other areas for future studies include trends related to television families with same-sex parents and extended family member dynamics as portrayed on television.



College and Department

Fine Arts and Communications; Communications



Date Submitted


Document Type





television family, family configuration, cultivation, content analysis



Included in

Communication Commons