U.S. Tabloid magazine coverage of a celebrity dating abuse incident: Rihanna and chris brown

Emily F. Rothman, Anita Nagaswaran, Renee M. Johnson, Kelley M. Adams, Juliane Scrivens, Allyson Baughman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dating abuse is a prevalent adolescent health problem with substantial public health consequences. As many as 1 in 10 high school students in the United States reports being hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by his or her boyfriend or girlfriend in the past year. The authors used the Rihanna-Chris Brown dating abuse incident of 2009 as a case study to conduct what is, to our knowledge, the first assessment of media framing of dating abuse. The authors reviewed the 20 leading U.S. single-copy sales magazines published from February to April 2009 and identified 48 relevant articles, which were all printed in 7 tabloid magazines. The authors conducted a content analysis of the media frames of the articles using 5 frame categories: (a) abuse is objectionable, (b) victim-blaming, (c) abuse is sexualized/romanticized, (d) myths about abuse perpetration, and (e) abuse is normalized. Abuse is objectionable was the dominant frame of 40% of articles, victim-blaming in 36%. Although the majority of articles reviewed (83%) made at least passing reference to the idea that abuse is wrong, a minority (40%) used a dominant frame that condemned abuse. Instead, the majority of articles communicated mixed messages about dating abuse, and many minimized the seriousness of partner abuse perpetration. Advocacy is needed to improve future tabloid media framing of dating abuse incidents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)733-744
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of health communication
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 1 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Library and Information Sciences


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