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Comunicar Journal 38: Media Literacy in Multiple Contexts (Vol. 19 - 2012)

Representation of childhood in advertising discourse. A case study of the advertising industry in Chile


This paper discusses the main characteristics of advertising discourse in relation to childhood and its engagement with children’s view of this stage of life, in line with «new social studies» and critical discourse analysis. This discussion seeks to complement the functionalist perspective of communication studies in the field of advertising content analysis by incorporating a discursive focus, taking into account contextual issues that may condition the interpretation of messages. Firstly, discourse analysis was used as a means of exploring social representations, identifying stereotypes employed in children's advertising in order to establish the possible functions of the message. To contrast these findings, group interviews were conducted with 10 and 11 year-old boys and girls from middle-income families in Santiago, Chile. A comparison of both findings reveals a complex and relational notion of childhood. Children see themselves as burdened by parents, and adulthood as an effective lack of liberty, where the archetypes reveal an image of the adult world as a state of loss with respect to the exercise of creativity, imagination and freedom. These archetypes correlate to children’s television output, where a number of shows ridicule the image of adults through irony and parody, presenting them as incompetent in their roles as parents and in their moral authority.