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An Exploratory Study Of Ageism In Children'S Literature

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Purpose. This study collected data from eighty fictional books for children aged five to twelve that were written in the United States from 1949-1978. The researcher was concerned specifically with (1) discovering if the older humans were stereotyped in children's literature, (2) measuring the judged frequency and intensity of such content, and (3) analyzing the data as they apply to children in grades K-6. Procedure. Eighty books for children aged five to twelve that were written in the United States from 1949-1978 were the source of data for this study. Content analysis was employed. A coding form consisting of physical and personality characteristics as well as behavioral categories was used as the test instrument. This test instrument was examined for its reliability and validity. To discover if the older humans were stereotyped in the children's literature selected, an analyses of the data consisting of measuring the judged frequency and intensity of the content was conducted. Findings. The aged characters in the selected eighty books for children were not stereotyped. They were depicted as generally active and having a variety of interests. The roles of the aged characters as well as the relationships and patterns of social interaction were varied. The findings were felt to be indicative of concern for understanding the aging as individuals experiencing somewhat different life situations and responding accordingly. Conclusions. (1) The instrument designed to measure the aged content in the eighty selected fictional books was thorough and adequately determined the presence, frequency, and intensity of the behaviors and personal characteristics. (2) All of the identified personal characteristics were present in the books either in narrative or pictorial form. (3) All of the identified behaviors were present in some of the books analyzed. (4) The personal characteristics and behaviors found in the books were generally treated by the authors in a positive manner. (5) The judged intensity of treatment of the behaviors ranged from strongly (rating of 1) treated to not treated (rating of 4) at all. (6) The portrayals of the aged characters were not considered by the investigator to be stereotypic. The aged persons were engaged in diverse roles and activities and led varied life styles. Recommendations. (1) A study similar to this should be done to discover if the aged are stereotyped in the content of children's books for ages other than five to twelve. (2) Studies should be conducted to discover children's attitudes towards the aged and the influence that reading has had in shaping those attitudes. (3) Studies should be conducted to explore the manner in which attitudes toward the aged are internalized by children. (4) Studies should be done to discover if children can or do learn attitudes toward the aged from their reading. (5) Studies should be conducted to compare the portrayals of the aged found in various genres of literature. (6) A replication of this study should be conducted utilizing an adult rater and a child rater. This investigation would give insight to how one perceives experiences presented in the literature.

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