Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts


Media Studies


Paulette Rothbauer


This study investigated the representation of teenage characters on teen drama television. Content from a sample of six television series aired between 1989 and 2006 were analyzed, with the intent of describing the underlying discourse of “teenageness” that shapes the portrayal of young people in popular media. Qualitative content analysis found significant, ongoing trends in youth representation that reflect common cultural conceptions of teens. Teen drama narratives were found to suggest that the experiences represented in television story lines are universally shared amongst young people. Teenagers were also represented in the process of discovering or choosing an identity, while socially preoccupied with peer relationships. These representations position teenagers as irresponsible, unreliable, and ultimately in need of adult protection and control. Narrative contradictions occasionally suggested that young people deserve greater responsibility and respect, but overall, representations of teenagers on teen drama television reflect a discourse that promotes youth disempowerment.