Child Beauty Pageants: What Are We Teaching Our Girls?The princess syndrome, self-image and eating disorders Published on August 12, 2011 by Martina M. Cartwright, Ph.D., R.D. in Food For Thought The recent issue of French Vogue has sparked outrage for its photos of a ten-year old model lying in a sea animal print wearing a chest revealing gold dress, stilettos and heavy make up. Cries of "how young is too young" to model, be "sexy" etc. have ignited controversy about early sexualization of children. However, what of the looming concern of programming young children to be ultra conscious about physical appearance and the impact on adult body image and disordered eating?
Today, television is peppered with reality shows that feature pint-sized beauty queens decked out in pricy gowns, full make up and big hair. Pageants aren't the "dress up" play we knew as little girls, they are a multi billion-dollar industry. And it's not just beauty pageants. A recent reality dance program showed 9 year olds prancing around in revealing two-piece costumes complemented by thigh high stockings, spackled make up and teased hair. Before hitting the stage the choreographer demanded that they "paint on abs." Armed with spray bronzer, the moms dutifully "carved" abs into their daughter's bare midriffs just before the young girls performed a provocative dance that causeed audible gasps from the audience.
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Many experts agree that participation in activities that focus on physical appearance at an early age can influence teen and/or adult self-esteem, body image and self-worth. Issues with...
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