Childhood Studies Magazines for Teenagers
Elizabeth Lovegrove
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 February 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0165


Almost since the beginning of the periodical press, there have been publications targeted specifically at children, but the magazine market for teenagers is largely a product of the 20th century, and especially of the post-Second World War era, with the increasing leisure and income of teenagers and the rise of teenagerhood as a more-or-less distinct life stage, both fueling and fueled by the booming teen magazine market. This is particularly so for teenage girls, who are the target of the vast majority of teen magazines (and the subject of most of the work outlined in this bibliography). While magazines for teenage boys do occasionally appear, they are typically short lived or focus on specific interests, such as sports or music, although boys also read girls’ magazines, as can be seen, for example, in letters from boys printed in the problem pages in girls’ magazines. Early teen magazines (such as the British Boy’s Own Paper and Girl’s Own Paper) were often explicitly didactic in approach, aiming to instill suitable values in their readers. This didactic function did not necessarily fade as the market matured, but it became less overt. After the Second World War, as the teen magazine market flourished, magazines became increasingly informal in their address, beginning to offer an illusion of near-equality between reader and magazine, rather than the earlier stance of benevolent authority. At the beginning of the 21st century, the teen magazine market, like much of the rest of the periodical market, is in decline. Falling sales forced the closure of a raft of once-successful magazines (e.g., YM in the United States and J17 in the United Kingdom), and the Internet has taken the place of magazines in teenagers’ search for entertainment and information. At the time of writing, there is only one mainstream teen magazine still in publication in the United Kingdom (Shout) and only a handful in the United States. Nevertheless, magazine scholarship continues to flourish, with the study of teen magazines appearing in many different disciplinary fields, including media and cultural studies, history, publishing and communication, childhood studies, health care, education, and so on. Scholarship continues to cover both in-depth analysis of particular titles and broad explorations of aspects of teen magazines in different historical and geographical contexts. Recent international conferences on women in magazines (Kingston University [2012], Cornell University [2013], and Oxford Brookes University [2015]) include new work on teen magazines.

General Overviews

For general overviews on teenage magazines, it is usually necessary to look to sources that cover broader related issues, for example, to sections on magazines in coverage of youth media or on teenagers in coverage of magazines. Johnson and Prijatel 2013, McKay 2006, and Teen Magazines are useful overviews of magazines in general, and Gough-Yates 2003 covers the specifics of women’s magazines, much of which is also directly relevant to those magazines’ “younger sisters.” When combined with the study of media use by young people by Roberts and Foehr 2004, these sources comprise a general overview of the field. See also Teen Magazines and White 1970 (cited under History) for a comprehensive review of the history of women’s and girls’ magazines.

  • Gough-Yates, Anna. Understanding Women’s Magazines. Abingdon: Routledge, 2003.

    Although this study of women’s magazines makes almost no mention of teenagers, the role of teen magazines in preparing readers to progress to women’s titles makes much of Gough-Yates’s findings also relevant to studies of magazines for a younger audience.

  • Johnson, Sammye, and Patricia Prijatel. The Magazine from Cover to Cover. 3d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

    Encyclopedic American-focused guide to the magazine business, covering all aspects of the business and with a wide variety of case studies including one about the teen magazine Sassy.

  • McKay, Jenny. The Magazines Handbook. 2d ed. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2006.

    A British-focused accessible guide to the magazine business, drawing on both commercial and academic sources.

  • Roberts, Donald, and Ulla Foehr. Kids and Media in America. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

    Wide-ranging survey of young people’s use of all types of entertainment media with a short but useful chapter on print media, including magazines. The findings on Internet use are dated, but the detailed demographics and data about other media still provide useful context for the study of magazines.

  • Teen Magazines.” Magforum. 2012.

    This website has broad (although not always deep) coverage of the British magazine industry in general; the page on teen magazines contains many useful summaries of different individual titles from the 1950s onward; a good starting point for research on the British teen magazine market.

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