May 2007




Master of Arts (MA)


Terri L Cornwell

Primary Subject Area

Mass Communications


television commercials; African American children; skin complexion; bias; self-perception


This study examines the effects of the complexion of African American children in television commercials on the self-perception of African American children. Both quantitative and qualitative analyses were conducted. A total of 347 commercials were examined from Saturday morning television programming on broadcast stations in the Lynchburg, Virginia area during March 2007. The results of the quantitative analysis found a lack of darker complexion African American females in the pre-recorded commercials. A qualitative analysis was conducted with focus groups of African American children ages 6-10 who were asked questions after viewing 8 to 10 of the pre-recorded commercials from the Saturday morning programming to determine their perceptions of the varying skin complexion of children in the commercials. The qualitative analysis results were inconclusive regarding skin complexion preference, but noteworthy information was found for future research, including the children noticing the roles given to the African American children in the commercials.