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Teen Literature Heavy with Profanity

Teen Literature Heavy with ProfanityA new study finds that the authors of teen literature often portray their more foul-mouthed characters as rich, attractive and popular.

For many adults, the beauty of the popular movie Hunger Games is the absence of sex and profanity, a followup to the remarkable Harry Potter series. Nevertheless, these examples appear to be exceptions, not the rule.

In a study, Brigham Young University professor Sarah Coyne analyzed the use of profanity in 40 books on an adolescent bestsellers list.

Coyne discovered that on average, teen novels contain 38 instances of profanity. That translates to almost seven instances of profanity per hour spent reading.

Coyne was intrigued not just by how much swearing happens in teen lit, but who was swearing: Those with higher social status, better looks and more money.

“From a social learning standpoint, this is really important because adolescents are more likely to imitate media characters portrayed in positive, desirable ways,” Coyne said.

Coyne’s study will be published in the journal Mass Communication and Society.

While profanity in TV and movies has been studied extensively, this research is the first to examine it in the realm of books aimed at teens. Thirty-five of the 40 books – or 88 percent – contained at least one instance of profanity. One of them contained nearly 500.

That’s a far higher rate than what’s found in video games rated T (Teen), of which only 34 percent contain profanity. In a way, that’s comparing apples to oranges because books contain more words – also known as “opportunities to swear” in the academic literature.

The “darkness” in current teen fiction was recently debated on the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal. And the medical journal Pediatrics published research by Coyne in October that found a link between profanity in media and teen aggression.

“Unlike almost every other type of media, there are no content warnings or any indication if there is extremely high levels of profanity in adolescent novels,” Coyne said. “Parents should talk with their children about the books they are reading.”

Source: Brigham Young University

Teenager reading photo by shutterstock.

Teen Literature Heavy with Profanity

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Teen Literature Heavy with Profanity. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 17, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2012/05/21/teen-literature-heavy-with-profanity/38983.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.