Seventh Brown Bag of the Semester – November 2, 2012

The audio from last Friday’s seminar can be found here: Brown Bag 7 (Nicole and Jennifer).

Nicole Martins and Jennifer Bute

Public Discourses about Teenage Pregnancy and the Impact of Teen Pregnancy Programming on Adolescent Viewers

Dr. Jennifer Bute and Dr. Nicole Martins presented the results of two separate studies that have examined the role of the media in reflecting and shaping ideological assumptions and attitudes about teen pregnancy and parenthood in the United States.

Dr. Jennifer Bute presented an examination of public discourses about adolescent childbearing.  As the media, political pundits, and private citizens pondered the meaning of recent events (e.g., the pregnancies of Bristol Palin and Jamie Lynn Spears), they expressed viewpoints, explanations, and possible solutions in mass-mediated outlets. This study examined the discourses communicated in such outlets to understand how public discussion of teenage pregnancy reveals ideological assumptions about reproductive health, ideal family forms, and the expected life course.

Dr. Martins discussed the results of a recent survey she conducted with 185 United States high school students (M = 16.57 years of age) to examine whether exposure to “teen mom” reality programming was related to teens’ perceptions of teen parenthood.  The results of the survey revealed a significant relationship between exposure to teen mom reality programs and unrealistic expectations of teen parenthood for both males and females. In particular, viewing teen mom reality programming was related to an increased tendency to believe that teen mothers have an enviable quality of life, a high income, and involved fathers.  The results of this study also revealed that across the three outcome variables of interest, perceived reality significantly interacted with this relationship, but only for females and not for males.


Nicole Martins (Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Telecommunications at Indiana University. Her research interests focus on the psychological and emotional impact of the mass media on children and adolescents.

Jennifer Bute (Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Her research interests concern communication about health in interpersonal relationships, and public discourses about women’s health.

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