TV shows pitting fame behind rise of narcissistic culture in today’s kids

The values of popular children television shows have changed dramatically over the past 10 years, with fame now being emphasized as the most important thing, according to a new study.

On a list of 16 values, fame jumped from the 15th spot, where it was in both 1987 and 1997, to the first spot in 2007.

From 1997 to 2007, benevolence (being kind and helping others) fell from second to 13th, and tradition dropped from fourth to 15th.

The study assessed the values of characters in television shows popular with 9- to 11-year-olds in each decade from 1967 to 2007.

It evaluated two shows per decade, including ‘Andy Griffith’ and ‘The Lucy Show’ in 1967, ‘Laverne and Shirley’ and ‘Happy Days’ in 1977, and ‘American Idol’ and ‘Hannah Montana’ in 2007.

“I was shocked, especially by the dramatic changes in the last 10 years,” said Yalda T. Uhls, a UCLA doctoral student in developmental psychology and the lead author of the study.

“I thought fame would be important but did not expect this drastic increase or such a dramatic decrease in other values, such as community feeling.

“If you believe that television reflects the culture, as I do, then American culture has changed drastically,” he stated.

The study’s senior author, Patricia M. Greenfield, a UCLA distinguished professor of psychology, said, “The rise of fame in preteen television may be one influence in the documented rise of narcissism in our culture.”

In 1997, the top five were community feeling, benevolence (being kind and helping others), image, tradition and self-acceptance.

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The top five values in 2007 were fame, achievement, popularity, image and financial success.

The study is published in the July issue of Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace.

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