Parental Portrayals in Children's Literature: 1900-2000

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The portrayals of mothers and fathers in children's literature as companions, disciplinarians, caregivers, nurturers, and providers were documented in this research. The impact of time of publication, sex of author, award-winning status of book, best-selling status of book, race of characters, and sex of characters upon each of the five parental roles was assessed using descriptive statistics, cross-tabulation, and multinomial logistic regression techniques. A survey instrument developed for this study was completed for each of the 300 books randomly selected from the list of easy/picture books in the Children's Catalog (H.W. Wilson Company, 2001). To ensure all time periods were ... continued below

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DeWitt, Amy L. August 2005.

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  • DeWitt, Amy L.

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The portrayals of mothers and fathers in children's literature as companions, disciplinarians, caregivers, nurturers, and providers were documented in this research. The impact of time of publication, sex of author, award-winning status of book, best-selling status of book, race of characters, and sex of characters upon each of the five parental roles was assessed using descriptive statistics, cross-tabulation, and multinomial logistic regression techniques. A survey instrument developed for this study was completed for each of the 300 books randomly selected from the list of easy/picture books in the Children's Catalog (H.W. Wilson Company, 2001). To ensure all time periods were represented, the list was stratified by decades before sampling. It was expected that parental role portrayals would become more egalitarian and less traditional in each successive time period of publication. Male authors were expected to portray more egalitarian parental roles, and the race and sex of the young characters were not expected to influence parental portrayals. Award-winning books were expected to represent more egalitarian parental roles. Books that achieved the Publisher's Weekly all-time best-selling status were expected to portray parents in less egalitarian roles. Secondary analyses explored the prevalence of mothers' occupations, parental incompetence, and dangerous, solo child adventures. While the time of publication affected role portrayals, the evidence was unclear as to whether the changing roles represented greater egalitarianism. The race and the sex of the young characters significantly affected parental role portrayals, but the sex of the author did not influence these portrayals. While award winning and bestselling texts portrayed parents differently than books that did not achieve such honors, most did not provide enough information to adequately assess parenting roles. Half of the mothers who worked in the texts worked in conjunction with their husbands rather than independent of them. Over 10 % of mothers and fathers acted incompetently. The time of publication and the sex of the author was associated with the prevalence of solo, dangerous, child adventures. Subsequent implications and recommendations suggest the inclusion of stronger parental characters in children's books. Many of the parents are portrayed as inactive, incompetent, or neglectful. The concern is that children are exposed to these picture book portrayals during the primary years of identity acquisition.

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  • August 2005

Start & End Dates

  • 1900 - 2000

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Feb. 15, 2008, 4:16 p.m.

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  • May 13, 2016, 5:31 p.m.

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DeWitt, Amy L. Parental Portrayals in Children's Literature: 1900-2000, dissertation, August 2005; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc4884/: accessed November 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .