Sexy 6-Year-Olds? New Study Affirms Need for Moms’ Influence, Faith-based Website Says

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Mothers have a great potential to influence daughters in building healthy understandings of sexuality and self-worth, according to the faith-based website followme.org.

"[T]he traditional family structure is uniquely designed for daughters to have a role model in the home: their mother.”
-FollowMe.org

Mothers are uniquely positioned to positively impact their daughters' development of healthy sexualization, according to the faith-based website, followme.org.

That statement was made today in response to a study released this month detailing a trend of self-sexualization in girls as young as age 6.

Psychologists at Knox College in Galesburg, IL, studied 60 elementary-school-age girls’ responses to questions about their sexiness and body image. In the survey, each girl, ranging in age 6-9, was shown two differently-dressed paper dolls: the first was a “sexy” doll, dressed in revealing, tight-fitting clothes, including a midriff-baring blouse and high-heels; the second doll was dressed fashionably but conservatively, outfitted in much more modest clothes, according to the published findings in the journal, Sex Roles.

Researchers next asked each girl a series of questions about the dolls, forcing them to choose between the “sexy” doll and the more modest doll, the report details. Each girl was asked about which doll she more closely resembled, which more resembled her desired look, which was more popular, and which she wanted to play with, according to the report.

Sixty-eight percent of girls said that they wanted to look like the “sexy” doll, and 72 percent said that the “sexy” doll was more popular in school, researchers found. “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,” lead researcher Christy Starr told Live Science.

Her explanation for this phenomenon? “Although the desire to be popular is not uniquely female, the pressure to be sexy in order to be popular is,” she said. Starr and her team argue that the two most significant influences regarding sexuality are girls’ mothers and girls' media consumption.

The study, which also surveyed the mothers of each of the girls, found that daughters from homes where mothers used TV time as a “teaching time” were much less likely to self-identify with the “sexy” doll. Monitoring girls' consumption of media messages about sexuality directly influenced self-sexualization, Starr and her team found.

Finally, the survey analyzed the role of religion in daughters’ lives. Daughters from religious homes were much less likely to choose the “sexy” doll, Starr found. These mothers “may be more likely to model higher self-esteem and communicate values such as modesty,” Starr said.

Why are daughters so heavily influenced by the choices of their mothers? Pastor Jamie from faith-based website, followme.org, said, “These results confirm suspicions that the traditional family structure is uniquely designed for daughters to have a role model in the home: their mother.” Whether that role model is a positive or a negative one, he said, is up to the mother.

The full study, entitled “Sexy Dolls, Sexy Grade-Schoolers? Media and Maternal Influences on Young Girls’ Self-Sexualization,” is available online in July’s edition of Sex Roles.

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Jeff White
FollowMe.org
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