The Rise of Fame: An Historical Content Analysis


Recent proliferation of TV programming for the tween audience is supported on the Internet with advertising, fan clubs, and other online communities. These Internet tools expand TV's potential influence on human development. Yet little is known about the kinds of values these shows portray. To explore this issue, a new method for conducting content analysis was developed; it used personality indices to measure value priorities and desire for fame in TV programming. The goal was to document historical change in the values communicated to tween audiences, age 9-11, who are major media consumers and whose values are still being formed. We analyzed the top two tween TV shows in the U.S. once a decade over a time span of 50 years, from 1967 through 2007. Greenfield's (2009a) theory of social change and human development served as the theoretical framework; it views technology, as well as urban residence, formal education, and wealth, as promoting individualistic values while diminishing communitarian or familistic ones. Fame, an individualistic value, was judged the top value in the shows of 2007, up from number fifteen (out of sixteen) in most of the prior decades. In contrast, community feeling was eleventh in 2007, down from first or second place in all prior decades. According to the theory, a variety of sociodemographic shifts, manifest in census data, could be causing these changes; however, because social change in the U.S. between 1997 and 2007 centered on the expansion of communication technologies, we hypothesize that the sudden value shift in this period is technology driven.

Bibliographic citation

Uhls, Y. T., & Greenfield, P. M. (2011). The Rise of Fame: An Historical Content Analysis. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 5(1), article 1. Retrieved from


tween; adolescence; TV; fame; content; media; values

Full Text:



Show references Hide references

Bandura, A. (2001). Social cognitive theory of mass communication. Media Psychology, 3, 265-299.

Baumeister, R. F. (1987). How the self became a problem: A psychological review of historical research. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 163-176.

Brock, T. (2010). Young adults and higher education: Barriers and breakthroughs to success. Future of Children, 20, 109-132.

Brooks-Gunn, J. B., & Donahue, E. H. (2008). Children and electronic media: Introducing the issue. The Future of Children, 18 (1), 3-10.

Buckingham, D. (2007a). Childhood in the age of global media. Children’s Geographies, 5, 43-54.

Buckingham, D. (2007b). Selling childhood. Journal of Children and Media, 1, 15-24.

Calliser, M. A., & Robinson, T. (2010). Content analysis of physical affection within television families during the 2006-2007 season of U.S. children’s programming. Journal of Children and Media, 4, 155-173. (2008). Retrieved from

Comstock, G., & Paik, H. (1991). Television and the American child. New York: Academic Press.

Dey, E. L., Astin, E. W., & Korn, W. S. (1991). American freshman: 40 year norms. The American Freshman. HERI: UCLA.

Eder, D., & Nenga, S. K. (2003). Socialization in adolescence. In J. Delamater (Ed.), Handbook of social psychology (pp. 157-175). New York: Kluwer Academic/ Plenum Publishers.

EU Kids Online. (2010). Risks and safety on the Internet. EU Kids Online. Retrieved from

Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M., & Signorielli, N. (1979). Living with television: The dynamics of the cultivation process. Perspectives on media effects (pp. 17-40). Hilldale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M., & Signorelli, N. (1980). Media and the family: Images and Impact. Paper presented at the Research Forum on Family Issues, Washington DC.

Greenfield, P. M. (1984). Mind & media: The effects of television, video games & computers. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Greenfield, P. M. (2009a). Linking social change and developmental change: Shifting pathways of human development. Developmental Psychology, 45, 401-418.

Greenfield, P. M. (2009b). Technology and informal education: What is taught, what is learned. Science, 323, 69-71.

Hart, D., & Gustavo, C. (2005). Moral development in adolescence. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 15, 223-233.

Harter, S. (1990). Developmental differences in the nature of self representations: Implications for the understanding, assessment, and treatment of maladaptive behavior. Cognitive Theory and Research, 14, 113-142.

Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33, 61-135.

Hoffner, C. A., Levine, K. J., Sullivan, Q. E., Crowell, D., Pedrick, L., & Berndt, P. (2006). TV characters at work: Television’s role in the occupational aspirations of economically disadvantaged youth. Journal of Career Development, 33, 3-18.

Hoffner, C. A., Levine, K. J., & Toohey, R. A. (2008). Socialization to work in late adolescnce: The role of television and family. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 52, 282-301.

Howe, W. (2010). A brief history of the Internet. Retrieved from

Iger, B. (2007). Luncheon with Pacific Council, Burbank, CA.

Ito, M., Baumer, S., Bittanti, M., boyd, d., Cody, R., Herr-Stephenson, B., & Tripp, L. (2009). Hanging out, messing around, and geeking out: Kids living and learning with new media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Kasser, T., & Ryan, R. (1993). A dark side of the American dream: Correlates of financial success as a central life aspiration. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 410-422.

Kasser, T., & Ryan, R. M. (1996a). Aspiration Index. Retrieved from

Kasser, T., & Ryan, R. M. (1996b). Further examining the American dream: Differential correlates of intrinsic and extrinsic goals. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22, 280-287.

Kasser, T., Ryan, R. M., Couchman, C. E., & Sheldon, K. M. (2004). Materialistic values: Their causes and consequences. In T. Kasser & A. D. Kanner (Eds.), Psychology and consumer culture: The struggle for a good life in a materialistic world (pp. 11-28). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Kaufman, G. (2011). Simon Cowell’s X factor offers life-changing $5M prize. Retrieved from

Kinder, M. (1991). Playing with power in movies, television, and video games: From muppet babies to teenage mutant ninja turtles. Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Kirst, M. W., & Venezia, A. (Eds.). (2004). From high school to college: Improving opportunities for success in postsecondary education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Kitayama, S., Markus, H. R., Hatsumo, H., & Norasakkunkit, V. (1997). Individual and collective processes in the construction of the self: Self-enhancement in the United States and self-criticism in Japan. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 1245-1267.

Konrath, S. H., O’Brien, E. H., & Hsing, C. (2010). Changes in dispositional empathy in American college students over time: A meta-analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 15, 180-198.

Krippendorff, K. (2004). Content analysis: An introduction to its methodology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Lasch, C. (1991). The culture of narcissism: American life in an age of diminishing expectations. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

Lerner, D. (1958). The passing of traditional society: Modernizing in the Middle East. New York: Free Press.

Maltby, J., Day, L., Giles, D., Gillett, R., Quick, M., Langcaster-James, H., & Linley, A. P. (2008). Implicit theories of a desire for fame. British Journal of Psychology, 99, 279-292.

Manago, A., & Greenfield, P. M. (2011). The construction of independent values among Maya women at the forefront of social change: Four case studies. Ethos, 39, 1-29.

Manago, A. M., Graham, M. B., Greenfield, P. M., & Salimkhan, G. (2008). Self-presentation and gender on MySpace. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 29, 446-458.

Martin, D. (2009, November 22). Child’s Play. Los Angeles Times.

Massey, E. K., Gebhardt, W. A., & Garnefski, N. (2008). Adolescent goal content and pursuit: A review of the literature for the past 16 years. Developmental Review, 28, 421-460.

Nielsen Online. (2008). The video generation: Kids and teens consume more video content than adults at home (News release).

Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Reynolds, J., Stewart, M., MacDonald, R., & Sischo, L. (2006). Have adolescents become too ambitious? High school seniors’ educational and occupational plans, 1976 to 2000. Social Problems, 53, 186-206.

Rideout, V. J., Foehr, U. G., & Roberts, D. F. (2010). Generation M2: Media in the lives of 8-18 year-olds. Menlo Park, CA: Kaiser Family Foundation.

Rohan, M. (2000). A rose by any name? The values construct. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 4, 255-277.

Rosenkoetter, L. I. (2001). Television and Morality. In D. G. Singer & J. L. Singer (Eds.), Handbook of children and the media (pp. 463-473). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Rozin, P. (2003). Five potential principles for understanding cultural differences in relation to individual differences. Journal of Research in Personality, 37, 273-283.

Schwartz, S. H., & Bilsky, W. (1987). Toward a universal psychological structure of human values. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 550-562.

Twenge, J. M., Campbell, S. M., Hoffman, B. J., & Lance, C. E. (2010). Generational differences in work values: Leisure and extrinsic values increasing, social and intrinsic values decreasing. Journal of Management, 1-26. doi:10.1177/0149206309352246

Twenge, J. M., Konrath, S., Foster, J. D., Campbell, W. K., & Bushman, B. (2008). Egos inflating over time: A cross-temporal meta-analysis of the narcissistic personaity inventory. Journal Of Personality, 76, 875-903.

U.S. Census. (1990). Population 1790 to 1990. Retrieved from

U.S. Census Bureau. (2000). Geographic comparison table. Retrieved from

Wilson, B. J., Kunkel, D., Linz, D., Potterm, J., Donnerstein, E., Smith, S. L., Blumenthal, E., et al. (1998). Violence in television programming overall: University of California study. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Uhls, Y. T., & Greenfield, P. M. (Under revision). The value of fame: Preadolescent perceptions of popular media and their relationship to future aspirations.

Uhls, Y. T., Espinoza, G., Greenfield, P. M., Subrahmanyam, K., & Smahel, D. (2011). Internet and other interactive media. In B. A. Brown & M. Prinstein (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Adolescence. Oxford, UK: Elsevier.

Ward, L. M. (1995). Talking about sex: Common themes about sexuality in the prime-time television programs that children and adolescents view most. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 24, 595-615.

Xlane and The Economist. (2009). Did you know: Best of shift happens. Retrieved from

Yankelovich, Y. (1998). How American individualism is evolving. The Public Perspective, 1. Retrieved from