Study: Girls as young as six think of themselves as sex objects

18 Jul

In Children too sexy for their years, moi said:

Maybe, because some parents may not know what is age appropriate for their attire, they haven’t got a clue about what is appropriate for children. There is nothing sadder than a 40 something, 50 something trying to look like they are twenty. What wasn’t sagging when you are 20, is more than likely than not, sagging now.

Kristen Russell Dobson, the managing editor of Parent Map, has a great article in Parent Map. In Are Girls Acting Sexy Too Young?  Dobson says:

A 2003 analysis of TV sitcoms found gender harassment in nearly every episode. Most common: jokes about women’s sexuality or women’s bodies, and comments that characterized women as sex objects. And according to the 2007 Report of the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls, “Massive exposure to media among youth creates the potential for massive exposure to portrayals that sexualize women and girls and teach girls that women are sexual objects.”

Those messages can be harmful to kids because they make sex seem common — even normal — among younger and younger kids. In So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids, co-authors Diane E. Levin, Ph.D., and Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D., write that “sex in commercial culture has far more to do with trivializing and objectifying sex than with promoting it, more to do with consuming than with connecting. The problem is not that sex as portrayed in the media is sinful, but that it is synthetic and cynical.”

http://www.parentmap.com/article/are-girls-acting-sexy-too-young

The culture seems to be sexualizing children at an ever younger age and it becomes more difficult for parents and guardians to allow children to just remain, well children, for a bit longer. Still, parents and guardians must do their part to make sure children are in safe and secure environments. A pole dancing fourth grader is simply unacceptable.

The most recent example of the culture sexualizing women involves starlet, Dakota Fanning. Sean Poulter is reporting in the Daily Mail article, Dakota Fanning’s ‘Lolita’ perfume ad for Marc Jacobs is banned for ‘sexualising children’

A perfume advertisement featuring teen actress Dakota Fanning has been banned on the basis it appeared to ‘sexualise a child’.

The actress is 17, but she looked younger in the magazine ad for ‘Oh Lola!’, where she was sitting on the floor with the perfume bottle between her thighs.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2059097/Dakota-Fannings-sexually-provocative-perfume-ad-banned.html#ixzz1dImHgIQP

Moi loves fashion and adores seeing adult looks on adults. Many 20 and 30 somethings prefer what I would charitably call the “slut chic” look. This look is questionable fashion taste, in my opinion, but at least the look involves questionable taste on the part of adults as to how they present themselves to the public. https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/children-too-sexy-for-their-years/

Jennifer Abbasi reports about a study conducted by Christi Starr and Gail Ferguson in the LiveScience article, Why 6-Year-Old Girls Want to Be Sexy:

Most girls as young as 6 are already beginning to think of themselves as sex objects, according to a new study of elementary school-age kids in the Midwest.

Researchers have shown in the past that women and teens think of themselves in sexually objectified terms, but the new study is the first to identify self-sexualization in young girls. The study, published online July 6 in the journal Sex Roles, also identified factors that protect girls from objectifying themselves.

Psychologists at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., used paper dolls to assess self-sexualization in 6- to 9-year-old girls. Sixty girls were shown two dolls, one dressed in tight and revealing “sexy” clothes and the other wearing a trendy but covered-up, loose outfit.

Most girls as young as 6 are already beginning to think of themselves as sex objects, according to a new study of elementary school-age kids in the Midwest.

Researchers have shown in the past that women and teens think of themselves in sexually objectified terms, but the new study is the first to identify self-sexualization in young girls. The study, published online July 6 in the journal Sex Roles, also identified factors that protect girls from objectifying themselves.

Psychologists at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., used paper dolls to assess self-sexualization in 6- to 9-year-old girls. Sixty girls were shown two dolls, one dressed in tight and revealing “sexy” clothes and the other wearing a trendy but covered-up, loose outfit. Using a different set of dolls for each question, the researchers then asked each girl to choose the doll that: looked like herself, looked how she wanted to look, was the popular girl in school, she wanted to play with. http://www.livescience.com/21609-self-sexualization-young-girls.html

See, Study: Girls As Young As 6 Are Thinking Of Selves As Sex Objects http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2012/07/18/study-girls-as-young-as-6-are-thinking-of-selves-as-sex-objects/

Citation:

Journal Article

Sexy Dolls, Sexy Grade-Schoolers? Media & Maternal Influences on Young Girls’ Self-Sexualization

Christine R. Starr and Gail M. Ferguson

Sex Roles, Online First™, 6 July 2012

Concern is often expressed that mass media contribute to the early sexualization of young girls; however, few empirical studies have explored the topic. Using paper dolls, we examined self-sexualization among sixty 6–9 year-old girls from the Midwestern United States; specifically self-identification, preference, and attributions regarding sexualized dress. Based on simultaneous maternal reports, we also investigated potential risk factors (media consumption hours, maternal self-objectification) and potential protective factors (maternal television mediation, maternal religiosity) for young girls’ sexualization. Findings support social cognitive theory/social learning theory and reveal nuanced moderated effects in addition to linear main effects. Girls overwhelmingly chose the sexualized doll over the non-sexualized doll for their ideal self and as popular; however, dance studio enrollment, maternal instructive TV mediation, and maternal religiosity reduced those odds. Surprisingly, the mere quantity of girls’ media consumption (tv and movies) was unrelated to their self-sexualization for the most part; rather, maternal self-objectification and maternal personal religiosity moderated its effects.

The Girl Scouts of America has some great suggestions for dealing with a reality television world.

Here are suggestions from Girls Scouts Research about how parents can talk to their children about reality television

Tips for Parents

Real to me: Girls and Reality TV/ Girl Scout Research Institute

Reality TV is a popular form of entertainment for young people today. While this may seem like a benign phenomenon, our research suggests that girls who view reality TV on a regular basis are impacted signifi­cantly on personal and social levels. Regular viewers seem to have more extreme expectations of how the world works and relate to their peers differently than do those who don’t watch as much. Reality TV can also serve as a learning tool, inspire families to explore new interests and activities, and encourage young people to get involved in social causes.

Tip #1: TV watching is the number-one activity for girls, but they don’t necessarily want it to be this way. Use this opportunity to create alternatives for your entire family….

The good news is that girls would like to spend their time differently. Ninety percent of girls would rather spend an hour hanging out with friends than an hour watching their favorite TV show, and 84% would rather spend an hour doing a fun activity. This finding is similar to one from the GSRI study on social media, which found that even though girls today communicate profusely through the computer and/or their mobile devices, most prefer in-person time with friends….

You can even think about ways you can use what you see on TV to get the family interested in other things. For instance:

o Try out a recipe seen on a cooking program.

o Explore a place—through books or the computer, or in person—inhabited or visited by characters in a program you like.

o Engage in a fun family activity seen on a favorite show.

Put effort into demonstrating that face-to-face communication and enjoyable activities are important in your family, and you’ll create a healthier balance between TV and other things family members like to do.

Tip #2: Reality TV is here to stay, but not all shows are created equal. Be mindful of the type of reality TV your daughter is consuming, consider watching with her, and use the shows as learning tools and conversation starters….

Our study suggests that competition-based shows (American Idol, Project Runway, etc.) and makeover shows (The Biggest Loser, Extreme Home Makeover, etc.) have the most potential for inspiring conversa­tions with parents and friends, making girls feel like anything is possible, and helping girls realize that there are people out there like them. These shows have an educational and awareness-based component, portraying new ideas and perspectives; increasing girls’ exposure to people with different backgrounds, values, and beliefs; and teaching girls things they might not have learned otherwise. Makeover shows in particular raise awareness about important social issues and causes….

o Did your daughter relate to the characters or scenarios?

o What did she think about the situations portrayed? Does she have any questions?

o What did she agree or disagree with? What is the most valuable thing she came away with?

o Is she inspired by what she saw? What inspires her?

o Does x-show encourage new passions or thoughts about what she wants to be when she

grows up?

.By being mindful of the variety of reality programs that exists and monitoring/participating in what your daughter is watching, you are in a better place to inspire conversation and learning.

Tip #3: Talk about the differences between reality TV and actual reality.

This is especially true of girls who watch reality TV regularly. These girls are more likely to be comfortable with gossiping, feel that girls have to compete for a boy’s attention, and say it’s natural for girls to be catty and competitive with one another than are girls who watch reality TV less frequently. They are also less likely to trust other girls and to place more value on being mean and/or lying to get ahead.

What girls don’t often recognize is that much of what they consider “real” is actually scripted. In the Girl Scout Leadership Journey MEdia, TV producer Melissa Freeman Fuller shares that crew members often feed lines to participants, set up situations, and edit shots to make things seem more dramatic and inter­esting.* As an adult, you may be able to distinguish between reality and scripted TV and to take the latter with a grain of salt, but young people are more impressionable and perhaps believing in and mimicking these behaviors….

o Does your daughter find herself mimicking the negative behaviors depicted or is she totally turned off by them?

o Does she assume this is just the way the world works?

o Does she know a lot of people who depict these behaviors?

o What are some ways she might react differently that could produce a better outcome?

…Because girls so often think that what they see in reality TV programs is an accurate portrait of real life, it is imperative that you discuss the differences between the two. If shows don’t reflect your daughter’s reality, encourage her to create media that does.* [Emphasis Added]

Tip #4: Encourage your daughter to look beyond the mirror.

Girls who regularly view reality TV are focused on the importance of physical appearance and more likely to think that a girl’s value is based on this, and it’s a shame, because of course girls have so much more to offer the world than their looks. Make sure your daughter knows this. Compliment her on her talents and praise her for her values or willingness to try new things. Encourage her to pursue interests that are not based on improving her looks….

Tip #5: Model healthy relationships.

One of the more troubling findings of this study is that reality TV shows seem to promote questionable behavior, appearing to compel girls to act out stereotypes like being catty and competitive and fighting among themselves for guys’ attention. Girls understand that reality shows depict unhealthy relationships, but they don’t always understand that these kinds of behaviors aren’t and don’t need to be the norm. As long as girls think that other girls can’t be trusted and that it’s necessary to fight and beat out others in order to “win” the affection of a romantic interest, they will continue to engage in actions like those above.

Girls need to believe that they can trust one another and that not all girls are out there to hurt others through relational aggression, bullying, and other detrimental behaviors. As a parent, keep your eye out for potential harmful behaviors between your daughter and her friends/peers. Promote healthy relationships and prevent gossiping in your own life so that your daughter has a model of healthy relating to look to. Think about groups or places in which your daughter can build positive relationships, such as Girl Scouts, and encourage her to develop these relationships with her peers.

Tip #6: Keep girls grounded.

Some reality shows feature characters competing for a prize, be it fame, fortune, or status, and in some cases these characters choose to lie, cheat, or be mean along the way. Regular reality TV viewers are more likely than their non-viewing counterparts to internalize this and believe that one has to do these things in order to get ahead in life.

As well, many girls want to become famous—more so now than in years past. While it’s encouraging that girls have high hopes for their futures, it’s important they don’t go overboard to become noticed and recognized. Becoming famous often means focusing on external beauty and acting out; it’s critical that girls remain grounded and in possession of the positive values instilled in them by family and other healthy influences. Continue to encourage your daughter to cultivate such internal assets as assertiveness, confi­dence, individuality, and creativity; she’ll go far. More information on the research cited here can be found at www.girlscouts.org/research.

Dr. Wilda has been just saying for quite a while.

Resources

  1. Popwatch’s Miley Cyrus Pole Dance Video

  2. Baby Center Blog Comments About Miley Cyrus Pole Dance

  3. The Sexualization of Children

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

4 Responses to “Study: Girls as young as six think of themselves as sex objects”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Dress codes in school may pay dividends later « drwilda - July 21, 2012

    […] Study: Girls as young as six think of themselves as sex objects                                                                                                     https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/07/18/study-girls-as-young-as-six-think-of-themselves-as-sex-objec… […]

  2. CDC report: Contraceptive use among teens « drwilda - July 24, 2012

    […] Study: Girls as young as six think of themselves as sex objects        https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/07/18/study-girls-as-young-as-six-think-of-themselves-as-sex-objec… […]

  3. Study: too many kids are pumping up with steroids « drwilda - November 20, 2012

    […] Study: Girls as young as six think of themselves as sex objects https://drwilda.com/2012/07/18/study-girls-as-young-as-six-think-of-themselves-as-sex-objects/ […]

  4. Macalester College study: Girls’ body image affected by older peers in middle school | drwilda - September 24, 2014

    […] https://drwilda.com/2012/07/18/study-girls-as-young-as-six-think-of-themselves-as-sex-objects/ […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: