Values Perceived by Teens in Their Preferred Television Series Character Through the Hall-Tonna Document Analysis

By Oihane Korres Alonso & Iciar Elexpuru Albizuri | September 13, 2015

Summary: This study was carried out on a sample group of 50 adolescents in their last year of Compulsory Education and aimed to determine the perceived values by subjects in their favorite television characters through the Hall-Tonna document analysis. The basic hypothesis for the study was that television conveys values and constitutes one of the forces for socialization at play during adolescence. The data was collected by means of a personal essay about their favorite television series character. Results show that the values most commonly perceived by adolescents are related to belonging, play/recreation and competence/confidence. Social-oriented values were also found. It is concluded that the measurement instrument used may constitute an adequate tool for decoding the values perceived by adolescents in their favorite television characters. Based on these results, some methodological proposals are presented to promote student values development from actual to desired values profiles and to use television as an educational resource.
Keywords: values, television, youth, Hall-Tonna

Резюме (Оихане Коррес Алонсо & Ициар Элекспуру Албицури: Ценности, усвоенные молодыми людьми, в их любимых телесериалах с точки зрения документального анализа Галле-Тонна): Данное исследование было проведено на основе эксперимента с участием группы из 50-ти молодых людей в последний год обучения в школе, и ставило целью определить усвоенные молодыми людьми ценности в их любимом телесериалах на основе проведения документального анализа Галле-Тонна. Основополагающая гипотеза исследования состояла в том, что телевидение транслирует ценности и является одним из важных аспектов социализации в период взросления. Данные были собраны с помощью написания личных эссе о своих любимых телесериалах. Результаты показывают, что главными ценностями, усвоенными молодыми людьми, являются: принадлежность к группе, игра / отдых, компетентность / доверие. Также были обнаружены социально ориентированные ценности. Таким образом, установлено, что использованный инструмент измерения подходит для декодирования ценностей, усвоенных молодыми людьми в их любимых телесериалах. Основываясь на этих результатах, были предложены различные методологические идеи по содействию в развитии ценностей молодежи, от навязанных обществом до желаемых ценностных профилей, и по использованию телевидения в качестве педагогического ресурса.
Ключевые слова: ценности, телевизор, молодежь, Галле-Тонна

Zusammenfassung (Oihane Korres Alonso & Iciar Elexpuru Albizuri: Von Jugendlichen wahrgenommene Werte in den von ihnen bevorzugten Fernsehserien durch die Hall-Tonna-Dokumentenanalyse): Diese Studie wurde an der Stichprobe einer Gruppe von 50 Jugendlichen in ihrem letzten Jahr der Schulpflicht durchgeführt und zielte darauf ab, die wahrgenommenen Werte in ihren Lieblings-TV-Serien durch die Halle-Tonna-Dokumentenanalyse zu bestimmen. Die grundlegende Hypothese der Studie war, dass das Fernsehen Werte vermittelt und eine der Sozialisationskräfte während der Adoleszenz ist. Die Daten wurden mit Hilfe eines persönlichen Essays über ihre Lieblings-TV-Serien gesammelt. Die Ergebnisse zeigen, dass die folgenden Werte am häufigsten von Jugendlichen wahrgenommen werden: Dazugehören, Spiel / Erholung sowie Kompetenz / Vertrauen. Sozialorientierte Werte wurden auch gefunden. Es wird festgestellt, dass das genutzte Messinstrument geeignet ist für die Decodierung der durch Jugendliche in ihren Lieblingsserien wahrgenommen Werte. Basierend auf diesen Ergebnissen werden einige methodologische Vorschläge präsentiert, um die Entwicklung von Werten Jugendlicher von gegebenen zu gewünschten Werteprofilen zu befördern und das Fernsehen als pädagogische Ressource nutzbar zu machen.
Schlüsselwörter: Werte, Fernseher, Jugend, Halle-Tonna


Television is part of teenagers’ daily life, integrating and interacting with other classical socialization agents such as family, friends and school. This medium, as an element of modern culture, participates in the socialization process as an important factor that mediates between the subject and its environment. Television is a source of entertainment, pleasure and information, but it is also the engine driving political, economic and cultural activity, and it is, therefore, an important tool in the transmission of social values and attitudes. Although the values transmitted by television have been widely studied, the works on the values perceived from television are scarce. The aim of this study is to provide an in-depth, qualitative study of how teenagers interpret television values. Once values are identified, we will be able to foster a dialogue and create guidelines that allow us to take educative action for their development.

Adolescents, television and values

Adolescence is a life stage in which individuals develop and define their self-concept and values throughout a maturation process affected by several factors, including television. The latest generations of young people have grown interacting naturally with mass media on a daily basis. Through these regular encounters with the image world, teenagers vicariously learn patterns and behaviors capable of modelling their desires, beliefs, attitudes and actions (Bandura, 1996).

Fiction, and television series in particular, rank first as teenagers’ favorite television genres (Livingstone, 1998; Medrano, Palacios, & Aierbe, 2007; Bermejo & Nuñez, 2008; López Vidales & Gómez Rubio , 2012). Television series present a great diversity of models and characters that are often familiar to teenagers and that can be contrasted and compared by viewers (Livingstone, 1998). In these characters, teens find models of imitation and identification that can contribute to the construction of their own values and attitudes (Fisherkeller, 1997; Livingstone, 1998; Del Río, Álvarez, & Del Río, 2004; Montero, 2006; Pindado, 2006; Medrano, Cortés, & Palacios, 2007; 2009).

Indeed, various authors have highlighted that said identification with characters is a relevant aspect to analyze when striving to understand the potential effects of media in youth audiences (Igartua & Paéz, 1998; Cohen, 2001; Hoffner & Buchanan, 2005). Teens identify with those characters, have empathy with them and consider them aspirational roles (Cohen, 2001; Moyer-Gusé, 2008).

Thus, we focused on teenagers’ preferred television series characters, as they constitute important symbolic figures with an impact on the adolescents’ personal construction process.

The basic hypothesis for the study is that television conveys values and can thus provide opportunities to teach values through its narratives. However, little research has been carried out on television and its impact on values formation. Previous literature has focused on the analysis of values transmitted by the media. The common understanding, as highlighted by some studies, is that television portrays materialistic values more strongly than it does social-oriented values (Raffa, 1983; Strassburguer & Wilson, 2002; García Reina, 2004; Del Moral & Villalustre, 2006; Dates, Fear, & Stedman, 2008).

However, television can also be a model for positive values and other-centered conducts, as emphasized by Medrano (2005). Indeed, a review of the existing literature shows that both individualistic and collectivistic values coexist in society and are transmitted in television (Medrano & Cortés, 2007). This idea has been highlighted by other works in different contexts (Muir, 1993; Pasquier, 1996; Sánchez Pardo, Megías Quirós, & Rodríguez San Julián, 2004; Grandío, 2008; Aierbe & Medrano, 2008; López Vidales, González Conde, & Martín Pérez, 2011). As some authors have pointed out, the presence of both types of values in television narratives can generate an ambivalence that is particularly harmful for children and youth (Del Río, Álvarez, & Del Río, 2004; Mares, 2005; Medrano, 2008).

Although the values transmitted by television have been widely studied, the works on the values perceived from television are scarce. Our work is based on the idea that viewers play an active role in the interpretation of television messages, as they incorporate them into the different environments with which they interact, especially their family and school (Medrano & Cortés, 2007). Watching television is a complex process involving multiple factors, both personal and contextual. Therefore, media messages are not univocal or closed; on the contrary, they are open, and can thus be worked with in order to rebuild their meaning (Medrano, 2008). In consequence, we believe it could be interesting to research how teenagers decode and provide meaning to media content through their own experience and vision (Orozco, 1996) and not through the models and values portrayed by television itself. Therefore, we will strive to determine the values as perceived by the adolescents themselves, and not as conveyed by the media.

The few studies that analyze the values that teenagers perceive from television have been mainly carried out from a quantitative perspective. Medrano (2008), in a study with a sample of teens from the Basque Country (Spain) and using a questionnaire based on Schwartz’s Value Model, found that teenagers perceive both individualistic and social-oriented values, such as hedonism and benevolence, power being the least perceived value.

Similarly, a recent cross-cultural study conducted by Medrano, Aierbe and Martínez de Morentín (2011) with Spanish, Irish and Latin American youth confirms that young people perceive both self-focused values (independence, ability to create and explore) and other-focused values (helpfulness, honesty and respect towards others). Conversely, the values that teenagers perceive the least are power and conformity. Different studies carried out by Medrano with other authors have obtained similar results (Medrano, Cortés, & Palacios, 2007; 2009). Nevertheless, given the inherent complexity of values measurement, the authors themselves indicate that additional in-depth studies should be carried out via more qualitative methodologies in order to compare and contrast their findings.

Previous research has proved that there is a relationship between teenagers’ personal values and the values they perceive in their favorite television shows and characters (Muir, 1993; Fisherkeller, 1997; Evans & Hall, 2002; Medrano, Cortés, & Palacios, 2007; 2009; Medrano, 2008). Therefore, researching how teenagers respond to media characters can help understand the attitudes and values they hold.

After performing an extensive review of studies about the values of today’s adolescents, Sánchez, Megías and Rodríguez (2004) conclude that self-centered values and social-oriented values coexist and complement each other in many adolescents. In fact, even if the pragmatic values ​​importance of having money and free time) present higher levels of adherence among youth, altruistic-normative values (interest in solving collective problems, getting a good cultural education, maintaining good family relationships and having respect for external authority) have similar adhesion levels. The authors also note that while there is a progressive loss of influence of religion, a growing disinterest in politics and a weakening of associations, individual and family values are becoming increasingly important. In this sense, there are other studies that underline that family is the most important value for adolescents, followed by friendship and love (Elexpuru & Medrano, 2002; Medrano, 2005). These results have been confirmed in different studies, which also note that politics and religion are the least important elements for teens (Megías & Elzo, 2006; González-Anleo & González Blasco, 2010). However, the study carried out by INJUVE (2012), the Spanish Youth Institute, concludes that in the last few years there has been an increasing emphasis on values that refer to the involvement in collective aspects and which transcend the purely individual level. According to Elzo, Megias, Ballesteros, Rodríguez, and Sanmartin (2014), youth nowadays seem to become more conservative and increasingly involved in collective affairs, as a result of the current socio-economic crisis.

Taking into account the background provided by previous literature, the aim of this study is to provide an in-depth, qualitative study on how teenagers interpret television values. In this regard, this study proposes an innovative approach to the perception of television values. Not only has it been relatively unexplored so far, but it has also been mainly researched from a quantitative perspective. Once values are identified and clarified, we will be able to foster a dialogue on them and create guidelines that allow us to take educative action for their development.

The Hall-Tonna values framework

The reference framework for the analysis is the Hall-Tonna (HT) values theory (Hall, Harari, Ledig, & Tondow, 1986; Hall, 1994), which helps understand the relationship between values and personal development. HT defines values as “ideals that give significance to our lives that are reflected through the priorities that we choose and that we act on consistently and repeatedly” (Hall, 1994, p. 21). Values are manifested in human behavior, but they are also reflected in language. Hall and Tonna identified a list of 125 values with universally standardized definitions, providing a common language that appears to be stable across the different populations studied (Hall, 1994). From these 125 values, 29 are goal values and 96 are mean values. The goal values act as driving forces behind each person’s conduct, while the means are used to attain these goals. In order for subjects to be able to develop in a comprehensive way, there must be a balance between goal and mean values.

The 125 values are graphically distributed across the Values Map of the model, which reflects various dimensions of knowing, being and doing. This map is divided in four phases of human development: Surviving, Belonging, Self-Initiating and Interdependence. The 125 values maintain a relationship with one another across the four phases, each being more complex than the one before. This hierarchy of values explains how values priorities change when people mature, and how the development occurs, for example, from dependence to autonomy, from individualism to collaboration, or from personal security to solidarity during their potential life journey (Elexpuru, Villardón, & Yániz, 2013). Each phase represents a particular world view:

  • Phase 1. Surviving: In this phase the world is a mystery over which individuals feel they have no control. Reality is perceived as threatening and hostile, and, therefore, decisions are made on the basis of physical safety, self-control and personal satisfaction. People who are in this phase feel that their lives are controlled from outside. Thus, the responsibility for their actions is ascribed to external circumstances.
  • Phase 2. Belonging: In the second phase the world is a problem with which the person must cope. In this phase the individual also feels that their life is controlled from the outside by the external authorities. The world is ordered, politically and socially. People in this phase search for belonging and seek to succeed and survive by winning the approval of others and conforming and adapting to the norms of the dominant society or group, beginning with family. The relationship with the rest of the world is established through social groups where one participates, such as family, work, etc. Thus, there is a shift from individual survival towards a social perspective.
  • Phase 3. Self-Initiating: In this phase the world is a creative project in which the person wants to participate. People in this phase search for autonomy and have the initiative to act creatively and independently. In this moment, individuals begin to increase self-confidence rather than seeking the approval of others or the acceptance of the rules and norms that are dominant in the environment. Control and authority are experimented as internal.
  • Phase 4. Interdependence: In the last phase the world is a mystery for which the person cares on a global scale. People in this phase acquire a global consciousness and act with the awareness that they’re part of a “we”, in order to work together for the improvement of the quality of life of individuals and communities in a universal scale.

Each of these phases comprises two stages: the first set of values represents the individual level and the second one is related to the social sphere. Growth requires integrating the personal and social values in each of the phases. Values are built one on top of the other, and thus, in order to progress to higher and more complex levels, the requisite anteceding values must have already been integrated. For instance, in order to develop cooperation, values such as mutual respect must have been internalized first. That is to say, values are not different, but rather evolve and become increasingly complex (Elexpuru & Medrano, 2002). From this perspective, there are no good values and bad values, but only peculiar combinations of values that reflect the way in which each person understands the world (Bunes & Elexpuru, 1994). However, not all values combinations help people and organizations develop; on the contrary, there are some combinations of values that help advance to more mature phase, whereas others combinations hinder progression or can even make people revert to previous phases or stages of development.

Hall and Tonna (1986) developed several instruments to identify values in individuals (Individual Inventory), groups (Group Inventory) and written documents (Document Analysis). The HT instruments provide profiles of the identified values. The profiles offer information about the selected values and their priority, representing them in a map of values development that makes it possible to interpret the meaning and internal logic of all identified values. Each profile contains a series of reports that provide different ways of approaching the information contained in the map, allowing the group or individual to reflect on their situation and development.

The profiles have special values cluster reports that show the foundational values, which provide the basic support for daily living and tend to be fully integrated in our behavior; focus values, which represent the highest priorities in daily life; and vision values, which are our aspirational values, that is, what motivates us to move forward. These various reports provide a systematic work proposal that constitutes an opportunity for exploration and growth, making it possible to reflect on the values from different viewpoints.


The aim of this study is to identify and conduct an in-depth study of the values that teenagers perceive from their favorite television series characters. The research design is qualitative, based on the Hall-Tonna document analysis methodology.


This study has been carried out on a sample group of 50 adolescents with aged ranging from 14 – 15 years. The participants are students on their last year of compulsory secondary education in the academic year 2013-2014, distributed in 12 different secondary schools located in Biscay (Spain). The participants of this study have been chosen randomly from a total sample which is part of a larger research project.

Measuring instrument

In order to explore the values perceived by teens we have designed an essay template where students are asked to cite their favorite television series character and then to explain the reasons that justify their choice. This activity has been considered adequate for the study because it requires active involvement from students and allows them to reflect on their feelings and thoughts freely and by themselves.

The essays produced by the teenagers have been transcribed and then analyzed through the HT document analysis instrument. The basis of this analysis is that values are conveyed in documents through the words used on them. Document analysis is done with computer software tool called HTDOC, which includes a 5000-word thesaurus in several languages. As the software tool scans the text, it identifies specific words and terms associated with any of the 125 values; moreover, it also identifies the order of priority of said values, either in the document as a whole or within any given section of it. The process carried out with the HTDOC requires the supervision and review of the researcher and the validation of a team of expert judges, both before the analysis (with the addition of new terms and the removal of unnecessary terms from the internal dictionary of the program), and after (confirming or rejecting the matches identified by the software tool). Furthermore, texts must be re-read in order to identify any implicit values or contexts that should be considered when carrying out the analysis.

Thus, this methodology allows identifying the implicit and explicit values of a text, according to their presence and repetition throughout it. The computer processing generates a profile based on the quantitative treatment of the associations made throughout the document. This profile shows in a systematic way the most representative values of the analyzed document, which must be interpreted in the light of the HT theoretical criteria (Bunes, et al., 1993).

It must be noted that the HTDOC has mostly been used to investigate institutional and policy documents (Bunes, et al., 1993; Goicoechea, 2010; Bunes, 2012). Therefore, following the steps of the study carried out by Elexpuru and Medrano (2002), the present study provides new insight on the potential of the HT model for working with adolescents.


In order to obtain the information, the schools were contacted and they confirmed their participation in the study. Then, the instrument was applied in each school in the presence of the researchers and a teacher, which required approximately 40 minutes. Once the essays were collected, we studied them through the HTDOC, following the procedure in the figure below (Figure 1):

Figure1. Procedure carried out in the research. Note. Source: Author.

Initially, personal essays were analyzed through the HTDOC software tool. This software tool analyzes the texts and highlights the terms it identifies as values, according to the specific dictionaries it incorporates. These dictionaries are especially built for different contexts such as education or business.

Subsequently, we reviewed the analysis provided by the program, keeping or rejecting the word-values assignments, identifying associations of value that had been omitted, and considering whether there were any values, either in phrases or in their context, that should be taken into account together with the literal ones.

In the present research we have undertaken the task of adapting the HT dictionary to the language of modern teens. For this, we requested the collaboration of a group of four expert judges. We asked them to confirm or reject our assignments, and provided a space for comments where they could add other values or make any suggestions they might consider appropriate. Then, heeding the proposals made by the judges, we performed a second review of the texts. During this process we found a number of discrepancies between judges. Consequently, we requested their collaboration for the second time, in order to refine the analysis. Then we incorporated these last suggestions provided by the judges and, finally, we improved and concluded the analysis.

As a result of the analysis carried out through this methodology, we obtained a profile of the values teens perceive in their favorite television characters. In order to interpret this information, we used the Priority Values List, which provides an overview of the priority values reflected in the essays, and the Values Map, where values are visually represented along a line of consciousness development, according to three categories: foundation values, focus values and vision or future values.


Results enable us to identify the values perceived by teenagers in their favorite television series characters in terms of the axiological model of Hall-Tonna.

The chosen characters are mainly male, either young or mature, and belonging to either Spanish series, for example, La que se avecina and Aída, or international series, especially American ones such as The Big Bang Theory, The Simpsons or Castle.

The table below (Table 1) shows, highlighted, the twelve priority values identified throughout the texts. Goal values are shown first, and mean values are listed next. Goal values reflect the aims perceived in the chosen characters, whereas mean values group the instruments to achieve the goals.

Table1. Priority values

Family/Belonging 2 3 73
Play/Recreation 2 4 53
Competence/Confidence 2 4 35
Work/Wealth/Value 2 4 25


Friendship/Belonging 2 3 58
Support/Peer 2 3 57
Self-Competition 2 4 42
Loyalty/Fidelity 2 4 35
Self-Assertion 3 5 34
Expressiveness/Joy 3 5 33
Being Liked 2 3 32
Prestige/Image 2 3 32

Priority values are related to three main areas:

  • Belonging: Teenagers appreciate characters that have a sense of support (Family/Belonging, Friendship/ Belonging, Support/Peer) and affirmation from the people closest to them (Being Liked, Prestige/Image). In the same line, they value the faithfulness of the character, which in this context refers specially to loyalty in friendship (Loyalty/Fidelity).
  • Play/Recreation: Adolescents like characters that are fun and make them laugh, providing spaces for entertainment and evasion (Play/Recreation).
  • Competence/Confidence: Teens also value characters that have self-confidence (Competence/Confidence) and work for a living (Work/Wealth/Value). They go one step further and appreciate characters who have self-initiative and who seek personal expression (Self-Assertion, Expressiveness/Joy) and those who strive to achieve their own goals (Self-Competition).

The Priority Values profile provides information about the values that appear more frequently. The Values Map profile (Annex1) confirms the situation described before and supplies new data that provides further insight from the perspective of human development. In this Map the values selected on each area are highlighted in bold and the higher priority ones are shaded in gray. Their frequency is displayed next to each value. This information highlights the greatest concentration of values, as well as possible gaps.

The aforementioned profiles can be complemented with the Values Development profile that the HT model offers. From this perspective, values can be considered as belonging to three different areas:

  • Foundation values: This area reflects the values that provide the support necessary to advance one’s development. In this sense, the map shows that foundation values are located in stages 1 and 2 (Phase 1). Foundation values perceived by teens are mainly related to safety and personal protection (Self Interest/Control, Safety/Survival and Food/Warm/Shelter) and to the satisfaction of basic needs, especially those related to sensuality and sexuality (Physical Delight, Affection/Physical and Sensory/Pleasure).

Table2. Foundation Values

Self Interest/Control 1 1 8
Physical Delight 1 2 6
Affection/Physical 1 2 14
Sensory/Pleasure 1 2 14
Food/Warm/Shelter 1 1 13
Safety/Survival 1 1 11

There is a balance between the priority goal and the mean values in both stages of phase 1. In addition, we want to highlight that adolescents hardly perceive the goal value Security as well as some of the mean values that support its achievement (Economy/Benefits, Property/Control or Territory/ Security).

  • Focus values: This area concentrates the largest number of values and the most significant ones. These values reflect current motivations. In this sense, the map shows that there is a very significant presence of values in stages 3 and 4 of Phase 2.

Table3. Focus Values

Family/Belonging 2 3 73
Play/Recreation 2 4 53
Competence/Confidence 2 4 35
Friendship/Belonging 2 3 58
Support/Peer 2 3 57
Self-Competition 2 4 42
Loyalty/Fidelity 2 4 35

Teenagers value that the character shows family support and belonging (Family/ Belonging).

This aspect is reinforced by the most perceived mean values, such as being part of a group of friends (Friendship/ Belonging) and having their support (Support/Peer). The perception of other values from stage 3 confirms the importance given to belonging and acceptance (Being Liked, Prestige/Image, Care/Nurture, Endurance/ Patience or Courtesy/Hospitality). It is noteworthy that, in their favorite characters, teenagers perceive to a lesser degree those values corresponding to respect towards authority figures and established standards, conformity and tradition (Control/Order/Discipline, Rights/Respect, Obedience/Duty or Tradition).

A relevant aspect when choosing a character as favorite is entertainment and fun (Play/Recreation). Teenagers seek in these characters moments of leisure and evasion. Adolescents are also attracted to characters that have the self-confidence to face different situations (Competence/Confidence). In this spirit, the mean values of stage 4 are oriented to the personal and professional overcome (Self-Competition) and to the loyalty to close people, especially to friends (Loyalty/Fidelity).

Although with a lower frequency (Annex 1), the presence of other values in this stage shows that adolescents appreciate the character having a job and performing it productively (Work/Labor). In this same vein, they also point to the character having social recognition and sufficient financial means (Achievement/Success, Economy /Benefits and Prestige/ Power). In line with the previous stage, adolescents do not perceive values ​​representing traditional management structures and conformity (Duty/Obligation, Hierarchy/ Order, Law/Rule or Rule/Accountability).

  • Vision values: The area of future values represents the motivational force in our lives. The Values Map shows that this area is mainly represented by stages 5 and 6. The absence of values in stages 7 and 8 can be understood due to the current vital stage of the participants.

Table4. Vision Values

Being Self 3 6 20
Self-Assertion 3 5 34
Expressiveness/Joy 3 5 33
Independence 3 5 29
Decision/Initiation 3 5 24
Authority/Honesty 3 5 23
Generosity/Compassion 3 5 27

These values of the future area can show what teenagers aspire to. In this sense, teenagers appreciate in their favorite characters aspects related to self-initiative and personal development. This is reflected in the mean values of stage 5, which emphasize the importance given to acting and thinking independently and to being honest with your own ideas and feelings (Expressiveness/Joy, Independence, Decision/Initiation and Authority/ Honesty). At this stage, it is also relevant the interest shown for characters who display solidarity (Generosity/Compassion). This fact indicates that teens not only perceive values focusing on self, but also values targeted to assist and serve others positively. This idea is further supported by the frequency of other values in stage 5. Adolescents value characters who make a positive contribution to the society through work (Service/Vocation) and who communicate with others with trust and honesty (Sharing/Listening/ Trust).

In this line, the goal value Being Self, located in stage 6, underlines the fact that adolescents value characters who act cooperatively in a social environment. This is also reflected in other values present in this stage (Collaboration and Justice/Social Order). Regarding other values present at stage 6, teenagers appreciate characters who seek knowledge through research and who enjoy learning and being informed (Knowledge/Insight, Research and Education/ Knowledge). As mentioned before, values in this area reflect aspirations for the future. Therefore, in the framework of their current vital stage, teenagers are able to perceive in the characters values that inspire them and which they would like to have in the future.

Discussion and conclusions

This study is an innovative approach to the values perceived by teenagers in their preferred television characters from a qualitative perspective, based on the HT model. In fact, previous research is scarce and has been mainly done from a quantitative position. Moreover, the HT model is based on human development and allows the identification of both strengths and weaknesses, providing a basis for educational intervention in their progress.

The values perceived by teenagers mainly belong to stage 3 (Family), stage 4 (Institution) and stage 5 (Vocation). Thus, individual values seem to be perceived to a greater extent than institutional ones. However, it must be noted that the presence of values from stage 4 (Institution) indicates a motivation towards belonging, social interaction and being accepted by others.

In general, results show that teenagers perceive both values oriented to personal sphere (family, self-initiative…) and values concerned with the social or institutional area (generosity, justice…). The studies carried out by Medrano and other authors reach the same conclusions (Medrano, Cortés, & Palacios, 2007; 2009; Medrano, 2008; Medrano, Aierbe, & Martínez de Morentín, 2010). These results are coherent with previous research which indicates that television portrays both individualistic and collectivistic values (Muir, 1993; Pasquier, 1996; Sánchez Pardo, Megías Quirós, & Rodríguez San Julián, 2004; Grandío, 2008; López Vidales, González Conde, & Martín Pérez, 2011). In the same way, they are present in today’s society and coexist in teenagers’ personal values hierarchy (Sánchez Pardo, Megías Quirós, & Rodríguez San Julián, 2004; Medrano, Cortés, & Palacios, 2009). It must be noted that some authors underline that the ambivalence of value transmission trough television contents is particularly risky for children and adolescents (Del Río, Álvarez, & Del Río, 2004; Mares, 2005; Medrano, 2008). This fact highlights the importance of media literacy to promote a critical reading of the values portrayed in the media.

The HT model helps identify the values that teenagers more strongly in their favorite television character. It is now crucial to contrast the identified values with adolescents themselves to clarify the values perceived in these symbolic figures, in order to foster debate around them and promote work in values from the perspective of human development.

  • In their favorite television characters, teenagers perceive values related to belonging, starting with family and friends, and to developing the skills to succeed in the group. During adolescence, where the acceptance of the group and the sense of belonging take a particular relevance, it makes sense for them to perceive these values. Indeed, previous studies highlight the importance that family and friendship take in adolescence (Elexpuru & Medrano, 2002; Sánchez Pardo, Megías Quirós, & Rodríguez San Julián, 2004; Megías & Elzo, 2006; INJUVE, 2008; 2012; González-Anleo & González Blasco, 2010).
  • Another value that teenagers perceive highly in their preferred character has to do with amusement and fun, which is not surprising when working with adolescents. Indeed, some studies point out that teenagers mainly seek entertainment when watching television, as a way to have fun and escape from reality (Medrano, Palacios, & Aierbe, 2007; Medrano, Aierbe, & Palacios, 2010). Moreover, modern society is characterized by the importance given to amusement and, in this line, studies on values of young Spaniards agree with these results, highlighting that having free time and leisure spaces are priorities for them (Elzo, 2006; INJUVE, 2008).
  • Adolescents value the inner authority of their chosen characters. The values underlying this fact are represented in stage 5, which constitutes the vision area. As Sánchez, Megías and Rodríguez (2004) point out the development of personal autonomy becomes central during adolescence. Therefore, it seems that teenagers seek in their characters the values they are pursuing or which could become their future references.

In addition, the HT model goes beyond previous studies and offers an opportunity to develop values with lower frequency in order to get an integrated track of values. Thus, the values identified in their favorite characters can be the basis for work fostering human development:

  • The scarce presence of Security, in contrast with the high perception of values related with belonging and acceptance, may reflect that teenagers perceive that the character finds a safe space in family. In the same line, teenagers seek security in the family context (Elexpuru & Medrano, 2002; Megías & Elzo, 2006). This aspect should be explored in more depth in further studies, as it can represent a limitation for the development of the self-autonomy that teenagers seem to be looking for. Related to the above, the absence of Self-Worth is noteworthy. This absence can be due to the definition of the value or the specific context of the present research. We are exploring the values perceived in their favorite characters, not the personal values of teens. However, this absence is striking and needs to be approached in future studies in order to obtain a clear conclusion about it and its implications.
  • Aspects related with conformity and respect to norms and traditions are hardly perceived. The results obtained by Medrano and other collaborators confirm this tendency (Medrano, Cortés, & Palacios, 2007; 2009; Medrano, 2008; Medrano, Aierbe, & Martínez de Morentín, 2011). Moreover, some authors indicate that materialistic values underlying security and traditional norms are being replaced by post-materialist values, which value belonging, intelligence and artistic expression (Inglehart, 1997; Schwartz, 2005). Studies made in Spain also show that, for teenagers, politics and tradition are the least important aspects (Sánchez Pardo, Megías Quirós, & Rodríguez San Julián, 2004; Megías & Elzo, 2006; González-Anleo & González Blasco, 2010). Nevertheless, it must be noted that values related to work and social acceptance are present in the map, so this fact must be interpreted with caution, providing an educational opportunity to go beyond entertainment and to promote active participation and social commitment.
  • The perception of values related to education and knowledge constitute an opportunity to encourage the students’ interest in education and learning. Teens value characters motivated by the thirst for knowledge (Knowledge/Insight, Research and Education/ Knowledge), although the low interest shown in relation to Education/Certification must be explored in more depth in future researches. In fact, this is a relevant aspect in the formative period in which participants are involved. Elexpuru, Villardón and Yániz (2013) suggest that this can be explained by some cultural beliefs that tend to equate certification and the idea of getting as many degrees as possible, which makes it necessary to recover the true value of certifications as accreditations of having achieved a sufficient level of the skills needed to develop an adequate professional performance.
  • It has also been observed that participants perceive in a minor degree social-oriented values from their preferred characters. This provides an opportunity to guide teenagers so they can focus the self-initiative they appreciate in the chosen characters and that they seem to be looking for, towards activities oriented to social welfare.

We conclude that the HT document analysis allows to identify and interpret in a global map the values perceived by adolescents in their favorite television characters. Our findings show that teens perceive values from television and that, therefore, it can provide an opportunity to educate in values.

It is assumed that television can be a good tool for developing moral and collective values, as long as there is adequate mediation that enables students to read media content from a creative position. And the first necessary step to design guidelines that can promote values education through television, is to specify and recognize the values perceived by students in that medium.

We consider that it is desirable for future research to continue exploring the values perceived by teens from television characters and to contrast them with adolescents themselves. This process provides a more specific and true vision of the values they perceive from that medium. Once the identified values have been verified with the teenagers, it can be interesting to compare them with their own personal values, in order to see whether they identify with the values they perceive from television characters.

If teenagers identify with television characters and recognize their own values in them as previous studies indicate (Muir, 1993; Fisherkeller, 1997; Evans & Hall, 2002; Medrano, Cortés, & Palacios, 2007; 2009; Medrano, 2008), knowing which values teens perceive in their favorite characters may favor the approach to the values of adolescents themselves.

Further lines of enquiry would possibly include the presence and absence of values from a human development perspective, as provided by the HT model. Clarifying values fosters a conversation that can help direct educational work towards the desired path. This knowledge can be the basis for educational proposals that, based on different techniques such as debates, focus groups and video forums, put a positive and active spin on the values perceived from television.


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Annex1. Values Map
Annex 1

About the Authors

Oihane Korres Alonso: PhD candidate, University of Deusto (Spain); contact:

Prof. Dr. Iciar Elexpuru Albizuri: University of Deusto (Spain), contact: