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Self-Sexualization in Young Girls

Earlier this month, Knox College psychologists Gail Ferguson and Christy Starr released troubling findings showing that girls as young as age six view themselves as sexual objects. “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.”

The study was conducted on elementary school girls ages 6-9 in the Midwest. The study used two differently dressed paper dolls, one dressed provocatively and the other in normal attire. When asked which doll the young girls wanted to look like, 68 percent of the girls indicated the provocatively dressed doll; 72 percent indicated that the sexy doll “was more popular than the non-sexy doll.”

Lead researcher Christy Starr said of the results that, “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.”

The results, however, are not all negative. A specific group of girls recruited for the study from a local dance studio “chose the non-sexualized doll more often for each of the four questions than did the public-school group.”

Starr explained that, “being involved in dance and other sports has been linked to greater body appreciation and higher body image in teen girls and women.”

The study also showed that young girls with “mothers who reported often using TV and movies as teaching moments about bad behaviors and unrealistic scenarios were much less likely to have daughters who said they looked like the sexy doll. The power of maternal instruction during media viewing may explain why every additional hour of TV- or movie-watching actually decreased the odds by 7 percent that a girl would choose the sexy doll as popular.”


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