You are here:

Children's television: A content analysis of communication intent in “Arthur” and “Rugrats”

, Northern Illinois University, United States

Northern Illinois University . Awarded


Changes in the 1990 Children's Television Act have created a demand for both educational and prosocial children's programming. Although many television programs espouse “prosocial” objectives, the term itself lacks definition, creating a continuum of program prosociality. This study used content analysis methodology to establish, via inferential and descriptive statistics, differences in levels of prosocial elements within similar children's television series, Nickelodeon's Rugrats and PBS's Arthur.

Statistical analysis determined that a difference did exist in conflictive communication content between the two shows. This finding, in concert with this study's qualitative research questions, lends itself to the conclusion that, in situations when the two programs are aired simultaneously, viewers would be better served watching Arthur than Rugrats . Justification for this conclusion includes an overall greater level of affiliative communication within Arthur and the lack of consequences for actions presented in Rugrats. Furthermore, in light of assumptions of social learning theory, which posits that viewers have a tendency to emulate observed actions, the narrative structure of Arthur provides greater realism within its character portrayals than Rugrats does.

Additionally, this study developed a new definition for prosociality as “communications and actions by characters that inform, support, or assist others.” This definition, which has been designed to help parents, teachers, and instructional technologists, has three benefits over existing definitions: scope, syntactic design, and applicability for generalization outside the framework of this study.


Anderson, W.W. Children's television: A content analysis of communication intent in “Arthur” and “Rugrats”. Ph.D. thesis, Northern Illinois University. Retrieved July 27, 2021 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

Citation reproduced with permission of ProQuest LLC.

For copies of dissertations and theses: (800) 521-0600/(734) 761-4700 or