Kristen Harrison is a media psychologist who studies mass media uses and effects with and on children and adolescents, with a focus on the body. Areas of expertise include fright reactions to scary media, children’s responses to media violence and violence-related ratings and advisories, media and emotion, and in collaboration with past and current students, media and youth sexualization and objectification. Her latest research concerns children’s and adults’ use of media for sensory gratifications, which are poorly understood yet essential for understanding parent-child conflict over media in the age of mobile devices. Harrison is best known for her research on the relationship between child and adolescent media exposure and health outcomes related to food, nutrition, body image, disordered eating, and obesity. She has also studied the effects of digital image editing (“Photoshopping”) on teen perceptions of body ideals. Her work has been funded by the William T. Grant Foundation, the Illinois Council for Food and Agriculture Research, the Illinois Department of Human Services, and the U. S. Department of Agriculture, among others. Professor Harrison was co-founder of the University of Illinois STRONG Kids Program, a transdisciplinary research initiative engaged with media, marketing, and family predictors of early childhood obesity within home, community, and cultural contexts. Since 2011 she has been director of the Media Psychology group at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan and continues to recruit students interested in media, health, children and adolescents, self-perceptions, body image, sexuality, nutrition and obesity, fear, sensory gratification, family media use, and any of these intersectionally with race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and neurodivergence. She runs the Family and Media Laboratory (FaMLab) in Communication and Media.
Field(s) of Study
- Media Effects
- Children, Adolescents and the Media
- Obesity, Eating Disorders and Body Image
- Media and Children's Fright