LOS ANGELES -- Television series paint an unrealistic picture of American families by showing far more single-parent households than exist in society, according to a new study.
In primetime TV series, 47 percent of fictional families are headed by married parents, compared to 72 percent of real families, according to the Parents Television Council study.
Researchers for the nonprofit group compared 2000 U.S. Census figures with data collected on broadcast network primetime series airing during the 2001-02 season, a total of 119 shows.
"Sadly, it's trendy in Hollywood to portray a broken family as hip, as a storyline," the group's president, L. Brent Bozell III, said last week. "Television has the ability to promote the goodness and the health of the nuclear family. It ought to do so."
TV series should portray the variety of American life, including functional single-parent families, Bozell added.
The study also found that fictional single fathers get a disproportionate amount of airtime. Among U.S. families, 6 percent are headed by single dads; the TV figure is 14 percent, more than double.
There's a smaller discrepancy when it comes to households with single mothers.
"For too long, Hollywood marginalized the vital role fathers play in rearing their children," said Bozell.
"It's heartening to see the networks place a renewed focus on the importance of father figures."
Bozell said he welcomes greater emphasis on families.