Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in Communication


Department of Communication


This quantitative study examines a potential relationship between viewing television together as a family and family functioning. About 150 families from California, Missouri and Ohio were asked to report the amount of time they spent viewing television together (coviewing) as well as the specific programs they were likely to view as a family. The families also completed the self-report McMaster Family Assessment Device, which measures five dimensions of family functioning (communication, roles, affective involvement, behavior control and overall general functioning). Statistical analysis revealed inverse relationships between the amount of time spent coviewing and family communication, affective involvement (i.e., cohesion) and behavior control. These results suggest that, as families spend more time watching television together, they communicate less effectively, are less cohesive as a unit and their control of individual behavior is reduced. The specific programs families reported coviewing were coded into one of six categories: drama/action-adventure; comedy; news, talk and information;sports; reality programming/game shows; and children’s programming. Families in this study coviewed reality programs most frequently (47.3%), followed by dramas (40.5%), comedies (38.2%), and sports (36.6%). Standard multiple regression analysis revealed a linear relationship between coviewing categories and family communication. Specifically, coviewing news, sports and information, along with reality programming, accounted for an improvement in family communication. Further, when families were assigned a primary coviewing category and then divided into three groups based on affective involvement scores, families who primarily coviewed sports programming were 2.5 times more likely to be highly cohesive, while families who primarily coviewed comedies were almost 3 times more likely to fall into the low cohesion group. A discussion of these results suggests that families should carefully consider the amount of time they spend in front of the television together, as well as the types of program they choose to coview.


Television and families, Television Psychological aspects, Communication in families

Rights Statement

Copyright © 2005, author