What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice and everything… slutty?!
That's what a new study from Illinois's Knox University seems to suggest. Psychologists showed two dolls to a sample of 6 to 9-year-old girls. One doll was dressed in trendy but modest clothes, the other in an extremely revealing, "sexy" outfit.
The researchers then asked the girls which doll they thought represented them, which one they wanted to be like, and which they thought was more popular.
The "sexy" doll won across the board. Girls seemed to link the sexiness to popularity and self worth. Christy Starr, the study's lead researcher, said:
"It's very possible that girls wanted to look like the sexy doll because they believe sexiness leads to popularity, which comes with many social advantages."
So what factors influenced the girls' choices?
Media exposure seemed to be the number one influence. The apple also didn't fall far from the tree, as girls with mothers who sexualized women tended to follow suit.
On the other hand, or foot, girls in dance and other sports were more likely to choose the doll with the more modest dress, suggesting that involvement in athletics promotes a healthier body image.
Finally, having a religious mom seemed to counter exposure to media. However, religious moms who didn't allow their daughters to watch TV at all seemed to have the opposite effect! The study says:
"This pattern of results may reflect a case of 'forbidden fruit' or reactance, whereby young girls who are overprotected from the perceived ills of media by highly religious parents… begin to idealize the forbidden due to their underexposure."
So what can parents do to keep their daughters' self-image healthy and wholesome? Balance.
From what we can tell, the answer seems to be giving girls an avenue of physical expression and educating them about what they're seeing in the world around them rather than covering their eyes.
In other words, watch the moms on Toddlers and Tiaras and do the opposite!