Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Steven R. Wilson

Committee Member 1

Joshua M. Scacco

Committee Member 2

Felicia D. Roberts


The term paternal involvement is multi-faceted and includes engagement, accessibility, and responsibility (Lamb & Oppenheim, 1989). Specifically, when considering engagement, or actual time spent in interaction with children (Lamb, 2000; Lamb & Oppenheim, 1989), social support is one important consideration when understanding fathers’ influence on their children. In accordance with social role theory, individuals should expect to see television sitcom fathers behave in certain ways based on their social positions (Biddle, 1979; Eagly & Wood, 2011), potentially providing their children with various types and amounts of social support based on factors such as employment status of wife, socioeconomic status, and gender of children. Additionally, the amount and type of social support may have changed over the years of sitcom production. The present study takes an important step towards learning what portrayals of paternal social support viewers are seeing as these depictions can be an important source of learning according to social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1989). Therefore, changes in paternal social support portrayal were investigated through a content analysis of 120 episodes from 30 different American family sitcom series from six decades (1950-2009) utilizing an adapted version of the Social Support Behavior Code as a coding scheme (Cutrona & Suhr, 1992). Significant results from the study included a main effect of time period on esteem support and teaching, with significant differences between the early and late years and the middle and late years due to the drastic drop in social support during the late years (1990-2009). Additionally, a main effect of child sex on esteem, emotional, and tangible support as well as teaching was discovered, revealing that in general, paternal social support tended to be directed towards sons more so than daughters. This main effect was moderated by time period in the cases of esteem and emotional support as well as teaching. Important family demographic and social support frequencies are also discussed.