Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Arts in Communication



Major Advisor

John G. McClellan, Ph.D.


Cynthia G. Campbell, Ph.D.


erin d. mcclellan, Ph.D.


This study explores the influence of romantically themed media on children's understanding of love and romantic relationships. By reviewing literature on relevant media influence theories, learning theories, and the consequences of learning through media, I review how children gain understandings of their world through the media. I then argue that as children identify and internalize meanings through exposure to romantically themed media, such as iconic Disney films, understandings of romantic relationships are shaped. By engaging in qualitative interviews of young children, this thesis investigates whether children can identify iconic Disney images and explores the ways children explain what it means to be in love. The findings of this study reveal that children ages 4 to 5 not only overwhelmingly identify iconic Disney images but discussed love in terms of closeness, commitment, affection, attractiveness, and amiable personality traits. Additionally, girls’ and boys’ responses about love differed in the areas of affection and commitment. Gaining insight into how children understand romantic love is essential for recognizing how relational meanings are being developed among young children, and the findings of this study may encourage scholars of media effects to study children in the Pre-Operational phase and to consider more fully how girls and boys identify and internalize meanings in different ways.