content analysis, cultivation, demographic characteristics, family, film, profanity, race, social learning, social reality, swearing, viewing


The exposure of children to profanity continues to be a concern for parents, media researchers, and policy makers alike. This study examines the types, frequency, and usage of profanity in movies directed at and featuring teenagers. A review of relevant literature explores the nature, use, and psychology of profanity, its potential social effects, and its prevalence in the media. A content analysis was conducted of the ninety top-grossing domestic teen films in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s (thirty from each decade) in the US based on domestic gross box-office amounts. Results indicate no change in preferences in types of profanity used over the decades. Teen and adult characters use similar profanity types; however, teens are more likely to use the seven dirty words than adults, whereas adult characters use mild words. Male characters use more profanity than female characters, and although both sexes frequently use mild profanity, females show a higher percentage for this type and males have a higher percentage for using the seven dirty words. Finally, results indicate that within and across rating categories (PG and PG-13), the amount of profanity in teen movies has actually decreased since the 1980s.

Original Publication Citation

Cressman, Dale L., Mark Callister, Tom Robinson, and Chris Near. "SWEARING IN THE CINEMA - An analysis of profanity in US teen-oriented movies, 198-26." Journal of Children and Media 3 (29): 117-135.

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Peer-Reviewed Article

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Taylor & Francis




Fine Arts and Communications



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Communication Commons