February 16, 2009
If you’re a parent of a young girl, you’ve probably noticed the sexualized marketing campaign aimed at your youngster: thong underwear and push-up bras for pre-teens, sexual images on TV and racy lyrics in pop music. Young girls are growing up faster than ever, while being bombarded with messages that tell them being sexy is better than being smart or talented.
Dr. Gigi Durham, author of the book, The Lolita Effect: The Media Sexualization of Young Girls and What We Can Do About It says, “The research does show that the more girls sort of self-objectify their bodies, the more they look at idealized media images of what they should look like and how they behave. The studies show an increase in depression and an increase in anxieties about the body, lower self-esteem, all those kinds of things.”
The American Psychological Association defines sexualization as occurring under one or more of these four conditions:
1. A person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or sexual behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics.
2. A person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy.
3. A person is sexually objectified ” that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making.
4. Sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.
American Psychological Association Report of the Task Force Report on the Sexualization of Girls found evidence that the proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising, and media is harmful to girls’ self-image and healthy development.
Research evidence shows that the sexualization of girls negatively affects girls and young women across a variety of health domains:
Cognitive and Emotional Consequences: Sexualization and objectification undermine a person’s confidence in and comfort with her own body, leading to emotional and self-image problems, such as shame and anxiety.
Mental and Physical Health: Research links sexualization with three of the most common mental health problems diagnosed in girls and women ” eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression or depressed mood.
Sexual Development: Research suggests that the sexualization of girls has negative consequences on girls’ ability to develop a healthy sexual self-image.
Visit the following Web page to view the Executive Summary, the Report, and tips on “What Parents Can Do.” A limited number of hard copies of the full-text report are available at no cost by contacting the American Psychological Association Women’s Programs Office via telephone (202) 336-6156. Or click here to visit them on the Web.
Find out what you should do if your child is sexy too soon.