New analysis of children’s TV and film suggests that too often it portrays pain as something arising only through violent act or injury when instead it could do more to educate young people about much more common, everyday pain.
Children engrossed in popular kids’ TV programmes such as Peppa Pig, or films like Toy Story or Frozen, are exposed to up to nine incidents of pain for every hour of TV watched, according to new research from psychologists.
A new study — published today [Wednesday 2 December 2020] in the international journal Pain from researchers at the universities of Bath (UK) and Calgary (Canada) — analysed how characters’ experiences of pain were depicted across different media aimed at 4 to 6-year olds.
The team behind the research were interested in assessing what painful incidents characters were subject to, as well as how they and others around them responded.
Their analysis looked at 10 family movies from 2009 onwards (Despicable Me 2, The Secret Life of Pets, Toy Story 3 & 4, Incredibles 2, Inside Out, Up, Zootopia, Frozen and Finding Dory), as well as popular kids’ TV programmes (Sofia the First, Shimmer and Shine, Paw Patrol, Octonauts, Peppa Pig, Daniel Tiger’s Neighbourhood).
These programmes were chosen to represent either girl-focused, boy-focused or gender-neutral TV series (dependent on the key characters).
Over the 10 movies and six TV series (which equated to over 52 hours of film / TV), the researchers identified:
- 454 painful incidents — a mean of 8.66 incidents of pain per hour.
- Violent pain or injury being the most common type of pain depicted (occurring in over two-thirds of instances — 79%).
- Boy characters much more likely to experience severe pain in comparison with girl characters (according to facial expressions).
- Examples of everyday pain (i.e. a character falling over or bumping their knee), being much less common, represented in only 20% of incidents.
- A general lack of empathy from other characters in responding to pain: 75% of painful instances were seen by others, yet in 41% of cases those witnessing it did not respond or where they did they were generally not empathetic.