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Social learning theory is also extensively used in research concerned with the construct of sex roles and sex stereotypes. At an initial stage of acquiring sexual behavior, children learn about their sex roles through observational learning. There is a historical tendency in advertisements to stress the natural differences between male and female. Advertisers themselves incorporated these perceptions through stereotypical definitions of gender (Smith, 1994). Male oriented advertisements and male characters have predominated children’s television commercials (Smith, 1994; Kolbe & Mulhling, 1995).

The entertainment-education strategy, based on Bandura’s social learning/cognitive theory, contends that people can learn about HIV/AIDS prevention, family planning, among other socially oriented issues, through intentional messages engraved in entertainment programs (Singhal & Rogers, 1999; Piotrow et.al., 1997). Various research attests to that effect. One example is a study conducted on the effects of entertainment-education radio soap opera on family planning and HIV prevention in St. Lucia. Researchers conclude that the soap opera influences listeners to increase their awareness about the use of contraceptives and adopt family planning methods (Vaugh, Regis & St. Catherine, 2000).

Some criticism of Bandura’s theory extends to the entertainment-education strategy. Health communication researchers contest that social cognitive theory is a predominant preoccupation with the individual, while in some cultural contexts decision-making is intrinsically related to the family, group, or community affiliation. Therefore, family relations and other environmental factors might ultimately affect behavior change (Piotrow et al., 1997, Montgomery, 1990).



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