16 and Pregnant: Examining the Role of Transportation and Persuasive Intent in the Effects of an Entertainment-Education Narrative Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Shafer, Autumn
    • Affiliation: Hussman School of Journalism and Media
  • In 2009, MTV began airing a documentary-style reality television show about teen pregnancy, 16 and Pregnant, which has been seen by millions of adolescents. The series ignited debate about whether such portrayals were helpful or harmful. This study investigated the role of transportation in suppressing resistance to persuasion, and promoting attitude change and discussion by manipulating persuasive intent and transportation using an experimental design. Treatment condition participants (n = 83) watched an episode of 16 and Pregnant. Control group participants (n = 42) watched an unrelated MTV documentary-style reality episode. All participants (18-19 year-old community college students) completed an immediate posttest; 46 percent of participants also completed a two-week delayed posttest. In general, watching the treatment narrative resulted in some effects associated with teen pregnancy prevention, such as increasing adolescents' beliefs that they are more vulnerable to getting pregnant if they have sex, and strengthening positive attitudes about using contraception. Effects that are associated with decreases in teen pregnancy/ parenthood prevention were also found, such that watching the treatment narrative increased expectations that teen pregnancy/ parenthood would have positive outcomes (and would not have negative outcomes). A promising result for post-viewing discussion found that teens who talked with a friend about pregnancy prevention in the two weeks after viewing had healthier teen pregnancy prevention norms than teens who did not. The overall pattern of results suggested that entertainment-education narratives about sexual health may be more beneficial for virgins than non-virgins. The findings contribute to our understanding of entertainment-education, narrative persuasion, and how older adolescents engage with sexual health messages. Although current theories posit that entertaining narratives are persuasive because viewers do not notice the persuasive intent, this study found little support for this assumption. This study also found little support for the proposition that transportation reduces resistance to persuasion. Perhaps the power of entertainment-education is less about suppressing resistance to persuasion and more about providing exemplars and scripts for situations where personal experience is lacking. Conclusions about the positive or negative sexual health effects of the series as a whole were not warranted since only one episode was examined.
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  • Brown, Jane D.
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Graduation year
  • 2011

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