Date of Award

Spring 1991

Degree Type

Thesis - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




Negative societal attitudes toward the elderly may be perpetuated by their portrayal in the printed media. Negative attitudes may influence the behavior of health care workers. Nurses are members of society and may be influenced by media, especially media they view as professional. Therefore, there is a need to understand more fully the ways in which the elderly are pictorially portrayed in professional and nonprofessional magazines. The purpose of this essay was twofold: a review and critique of theoretical and empirical literature on the influence of printed media portrayal of the elderly as it impacts on the behavior of nurses toward the elderly was conducted. Secondly, pictorial presentations of the elderly in both professional and nonprofessional magazines from 1980 and 1989 were described and compared. The years 1980 and 1989 were selected because tremendous changes have occurred in the health care system during this time. The six magazines used in the project were: two nonprofessional magazines, Modern Maturity and Readers Digest; two magazines directed towards nursing, Geriatric Nursing and Journal of Gerontological Nursing; and two magazines directed to long term care workers, Journal of Long Term Care Administration and Nursing Homes, yielding a sample of 323 pictures. The data was described based on six criteria: the title or wording that accompanied the picture, interaction patterns of individuals in the picture, facial expression, state of dress, functional activity depicted, and physical position in the pictures of the identified periodicals. Differences in the pictorial presentations from the three types of magazines were presented. Data from 1980 and 1989 were then examined to compare differences and similarities in the six criteria for the two time periods. Findings suggested that the four major themes prevalent were the visual form factor, homogeneity factor, typical factor and the socialization factor. This project entailed two significant aspects for nurses. First it explained attitude and behavior theories, critiqued the status of theories and research, and uncovered gaps and inconsistencies in both research and theory. Secondly, by describing and comparing pictorial presentations of the elderly in magazines, this study can assist nurses to become familiar with their attitudes towards the elderly and the affect it may have on their practice.



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