A university study shows that girls as young as six are being conditioned by the media to think of themselves as sex objects. While past studies have found that teens and young women increasingly see themselves in such terms, the study, published last month in the journal Sex Roles, is the first to identify self-sexualization in early elementary-school-aged girls.
The study was conducted by psychologists at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, who used paper dolls to determine the level of “self-sexualization” in girls ages six to nine. A total of 60 girls were shown two dolls, one dressed in tight and revealing “sexy” clothing, and the other wearing a loose-fitting, “trendy” outfit. Using a different set of dolls for each question, the researchers asked each girl to choose the doll that: 1) looked like herself; 2) looked how she wanted to look; 3) was the “popular” girl in school; 4) she wanted to play with.
The researchers found that across the board the girls most often chose the “sexy” doll over the more modestly dressed one. Most significantly, 68 percent of the girls said the sexy doll looked how they wanted to look, and 72 percent said that the sexy doll was more popular than the non-sexy doll.
“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,” said lead researcher Christy Starr. She added that she was surprised at the number of six- and seven-year-old girls who chose the sexy doll as the one they most wanted to look like.
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