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Sexy Dolls, Sexy Grade-Schoolers? Media & Maternal Influences on Young Girls' Self-Sexualization

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Concern is often expressed that mass media con-tribute to the early sexualization of young girls; however, few empirical studies have explored the topic. Using paper dolls, we examined self-sexualization among sixty 6–9 year-old girls from the Midwestern United States; specifically self-identification, preference, and attributions regarding sexualized dress. Based on simultaneous maternal reports, we also investigated potential risk factors (media consump-tion hours, maternal self-objectification) and potential pro-tective factors (maternal television mediation, maternal religiosity) for young girls' sexualization. Findings support social cognitive theory/social learning theory and reveal nuanced moderated effects in addition to linear main effects. Girls overwhelmingly chose the sexualized doll over the non-sexualized doll for their ideal self and as popular; however, dance studio enrollment, maternal instructive TV mediation, and maternal religiosity reduced those odds. Surprisingly, the mere quantity of girls' media consumption (tv and movies) was unrelated to their self-sexualization for the most part; rather, maternal self-objectification and maternal personal religiosity moderated its effects.
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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Sexy Dolls, Sexy Grade-Schoolers? Media & Maternal
Influences on Young Girls Self-Sexualization
Christine R. Starr &
Gail M. Ferguson
Published online: 6 July 2012
#
Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012
Abstract Concern is often expres sed that mass media con-
tribute to the early sexualization of young girls; however,
few empirical studies have explored the topic. Using paper
dolls, we examined self-sexualization among sixty 69 year-
old girls from the Midwestern United States; specifically
self-identification, preference, and attributions regarding
sexualized dress. Based on simultaneous maternal reports,
we also investigated potential risk factors (media consump-
tion hours, maternal self-objectification) and potential pro-
tective factors (maternal television mediation, maternal
religiosity) for young girls sexualization. Findings support
social cognitive theory/social learning theory and reveal
nuanced moderated effects in addition to linear main effects.
Girls overwhelmingly chose the sexualized doll over the
non-sexualized doll for their ideal self and as popular;
however, dance studio enrollment, maternal instructive TV
mediation, and maternal religiosity reduced those odds.
Surprisingly, the mere quantity of girls media consumption
(tv and movies) was unrelated to thei r self-sexualization for
the most part ; rather, maternal self-obj ectification and
maternal personal religiosity moderated its effects.
Keywords Sexualization
.
Self-objectification
.
TV
mediation
.
Gender roles/Schema
.
Mother-daughter
relationship
.
Mass media
Introduction
Dolls may act as a thermostat for the sexual ization of young
girls in U.S. society. On the heels of 20th century criticism
of the anatom ically questionable Barbie doll came the 21st
century Bratz d olla n adolescent-figured doll modeling
sexy clothing and make-up on huge eyes and plump lips
(Levin and Kilbourne 2008). Despite the ubiquity of these
sexualizing messages targeted t owards young girls, it is
surprising that there remains a dearth of scientific knowl-
edge on early sexualization, including self-sexualization
(Durham 2008). For this reason, the 2007 American Psy-
chological Association (APA) Taskforce on the Sexualiza-
tion of Girls call ed for more research on the prevalence of
early sexualization, and factors that both contribute to and
buffer girls from this trajectory (p. 42). The present study,
conducted in response to the APAs call, explored young
girls self-identification, preference, and attributions regard-
ing sexualized dress, and inves tigated some potential risk
factors (media consumption, maternal self-objectification)
and potential protective factors (maternal television media-
tion, maternal religiosity) for early sexualization.
This paper adheres to the APAs 2007 definition of sexu-
alization as the act of being sexualized or sexualizing
oneself (i.e., s elf-sexualization), which includes reducing
physical attractiveness to sexiness, valuing someone based
solely on sex appeal, or treating someone as a sexual object
rather than as a per son . For develop men ta l reaso ns, we
focus on two of three main contributors to sexualization
listed by the APA Task Force (2007): for cultural contribu-
tions, we address media consumption, and for interpersonal
contributions we address maternal variables. In addition, we
examine two of the nine approaches listed by the APA as
buffers against girls sexualization: TV mediation, and reli-
gion. Young girls spend a great deal of time at home com-
pared to older children; therefore, social learn ing in the
home, both from mothers and from television, was expected
C. R. Starr
Department of Psychology, Knox College,
2 East South Street,
Galesburg, IL 61401, USA
e-mail: christy.starr1@gmail.com
G. M. Ferguson (*)
Department of Psychology, Knox College,
2 East South Street, Box 120,
Galesburg, IL 61401, USA
e-mail: ferguson.gail@gmail.com
Sex Roles (2012) 67:463476
DOI 10.1007/s11199-012-0183-x
to be particularly important for early sexualization. In addi-
tion, media and maternal modeling are two of the earliest
sexualization influences that most young girls have, and this
learning precedes other influences such as peers and the
development of their own intrapsychic attitudes. Although
this study focuses on U.S. families (and all studies cited use
U.S. samples unless otherwise noted), early sexualization
research may b e re levant in other countries, particularly
because U.S. media is widely exported.
Early Sexualization of Girls
Recent books such as The Lolita Effect (Durham 2008 )
sound an alarm regarding an observed trend towards the
sexualization of younger and younger girls:
The turn of the new millennium has spawned an
intriguing phenomenon: the sexy little girlwith pre-
ternaturally voluptuous curves, and one whose scant-
ily clad body gyrates in music videos, poses
provocatively on teen magazine covers, and populates
cinema and television screens around the globeshe
is Lolita (Durham 2008, p. 22).
Many authors identify mass media as the primary culprit
for early sexualization of young girls because of the increasing
sexual content in TV programming, music videos, movies,
magazines, and advertising (Kunkel et al. 2005;Malamuth
and Impett 2001), and the hypersexualized portrayal of
women in videogames (Behm-Morawitz and Mastro 2009).
However, most research on the predictors and consequences
of sexualization to date has been conducted with adolescent
girls and women. This body of correlational and experimental
work demonstrates that teenage girls learn facts about sex
from TV, whether accurate or not (Donnerstein and Smith
2001). Congruently, adolescent and college-age women who
consume more sexualized mass media have more sexualized
attitudes (Bryant and Rockwell 1994;Dilletal.2008), more
sexual intentions and behaviors including earlier debut
(Brown et al. 2006; Pardun et al. 2005), and compromised
self-efficacy and body-related attitudes (Behm-Morawitz and
Mastro 2009;Daniels2009; Grabe and Hyde 2009). More-
over, although women sometimes enjoy sexualization (e.g.,
social benefits of attractiveness), it also brings significant
liabilities including greater body shame, objectification by
others, and unwanted sexual advances (Liss et al. 2011).
Substantial evidence that m edia is both sexualiz ed and
sexualizing for teenage girls and women, taken together with
the knowledge that regular TV viewing begins before 3 years
old and peaks at 12 years (Comstock and Scharrer 2001),
make it particularly important to study the association be-
tween media consumption and sexualization for young girls
and the potential moderators of this association (APA 2007).
Social Cognitive Theory of Gender Development
The social cognitive theory of gender development and
differentiation (Bussey and Bandura 1999; Perry and
Bussey 1979) helps to explain how young girls learn
gender-related behaviors, attitudes, and preferences from
the outside world. According to this theory, gender devel-
opment is facilitated by modeling observed gender-linked
behavior (e.g., a young girl imitates her mother in putting on
lipstick), by learning from the consequences of ones
gender-linked behavior (e.g., the mother rewards this femi-
nine act by purchasing the young girl her own lip balm), and
by direct instruction on gender-linked behavior (e.g., the
young girl s mother provides step-by -step directions on
how to apply lip balm). Young children are especially likely
to adopt gender-linked behaviors when their role models
behaviors are rewarded or go unpunished (Bandura 1965).
In these insta nces , the child be comes motivated to seek
similar positive outcomes by imitating the rewarded behav-
ior (e.g., the young girl uses lip balm in hopes of achieving
the same social attention or personal satisfaction from look-
ing pretty as does her mother). The child may also learn
the underlying rules governing the modeled behavior to
produce novel actions that are likely to also be
rewarded (e.g., the young girl chooses to wear more
stereotypically feminine clothes after discerning that
looking pretty in general is socially and personally
rewarding).
Moreover, young children selectively attend to same-
gender models. For example, in a classic study of 84 eight
year-old girls and boys, children who were shown a film
with a same-gender and other-gender model were signifi-
cantly more likely to imitate the stated food preferences of
the same-gender model (Perry and Bussey 1979). More
recent research on childre n s reactions to media concurs.
For example, Hoffner (1996) found that among 7 to 12-
year-olds, most boys and approximately half of the girls
reported a same-gender character as their favorite TV char-
acter, and girls were more likely to express the desire to
emulate t he behaviors of female than male characters.
Parents play a particularly salient role in their young child-
rens gender role development as the first same-gender
models young children have (a British study found that
babies as young as 10 months pay significantly more atten-
tion to models of the same gender: Kujawski and Bower
1993), and as the primary source of instruction and feedback
about g endered behavior (e.g., the young girl previously
described would care more about her mothers opinion of
her lip balm application: Bussey and Bandura 1999 ). Addi-
tionally, there is a significant positive association between
adolescent girls body image and eating behaviors and their
perceptions of their mothers body/eating behaviors and
attitudes (Benedikt et al. 1998; Cooley et al. 2008). This
464 Sex Roles (2012) 67:463476
supports the idea that girls learn gender roles, attitudes
towards their body, and possibly sexualized attitudes
and behaviors primarily from their mothers. Maternal
influences on sexualization may be particularly strong
for young girls because their developmental s tage
requires high levels of direct motherdaughter involve-
ment, which allows daughters more social learning
opportunities. For this reason, the current study inves-
tigates several maternal influences as moderators of the
likelihood of early sexualization.
Risk Factors for Early Self-Sexualization of Girls
Media Consumption
There is compelling experimental and correlational evidence
that young children learn and imitate the behaviors of film
and cartoon characters, particularly same-gender models
(Anderson et al. 2010; Bandura et al. 1963). The contem-
porary 611 year old child in the United States views a
weekly average of 22 hr of TV and over 28 hr of combined
media (TV, movies, and video games) (McDonough 2009),
and there has been an exponential increase in sexual TV
content since the mid-70s (Kunkel et al. 1996). Currently,
over 70 % of all TV programm ing and 77 % of prime-time
TV programming includes sexual materialroughly six
scenes per hour of sexual talk or physical acts (Kunkel et
al. 2005). This is especially concerning as childhood TV
viewing patterns morph into adolescent and adult patterns in
terms of show and time slot preferenc es (Comstock and
Scharrer 20 01). Ward (1 995) found that approximately
30 % of the most viewed child and adolescent TV
programs contain sex talk which highlights physical
attractiveness and objectifies womens bodies. A study
from the Parents Television Council (2010)paintsan
even bleaker picture: among the 25 most popular shows
for 12-17 year-olds, 86 % of female actors in sexy
prime-time scenes are high school age, more depictions
of sexual behavior in these shows contain underage teen
girls (47 %) than adult women (29 %), and g irls in
these shows typically display positive or neutral responses to
their sexualization.
Sexualized female media characters are especially allur-
ing models for young girls. First, children initially select
screen character models based on similarities including gen-
der, then later based on wishful identification with an older
character (i.e., a desire to resemble that person: Comstock
and Scharrer 2007). Second, wishful identification for girls
is strongly based on physical attractiveness (Reeves and
Greenberg 1977). Third, female media characters often dis-
play ultra feminine behavior, which is likely to appeal to
younger girls who characteristically hold rigid gender ster-
eotypes (Bussey and Ban dura 1999; Perry and Bussey
1979). Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that young girls
may also be influenced by sexualized media images, includ-
ing sexy clothing.
Maternal Self-Objectification
Mothers give their daughters importan t cues about desirable
appearance and body image, which may have implications
for self-sexualization. A meta-analysis of 43 studies on the
development of gender schemas found a reliable association
between parents gender schemas and their childrens gen-
der self-concepts (Tenenbaum and Leaper 2002). Similarly,
research on the thin ideal reveal that a mothers opinion
about her own body and messages regarding physical ap-
pearance are associated with her daughters perceived im-
portance of being thin and body-related behaviors including
dieting and disordered eating (Hill et al. 1990; Levine et al.
1994). In addition, girls with stronger internalized body
ideals such as the thin ideal are more likely to respond
positively to pictures of sexually objectified w omen
(Murnen et al. 2003). Given that mothers model impor-
tant values and beha viors regarding body ideals and
related behaviors, it is l ikely that mothers who have a
more objectified self-view may predispose their daugh-
ters to a more objectified self-view a nd more sexualized
preferences.
Protective Factors Against Early Self-Sexualization of Girls
Maternal TV Mediation
The parent ing literature demonstrates the strong protective
effects of parental involvement against a variety of maladap-
tive developmental outcomes (Jeynes 2005; Siever ding et al.
2005). One particular type of parental involvem ent, TV
mediation, has been found to have a protective effect against
a range of risky youth behaviors including sexual behavior.
TV mediation refers to parental involvement in a childsTV
viewing and has three components: restrictive mediation
(forbidding certain progra ms or amount of viewing hours),
instructive mediation (talking about specific things in the
show with an instructive goal in mind), and socia l coview-
ing (the parent informally viewing TV with their child with
no specific goal in mind; Valkenburg et al. 1999). In a
sample of over 1,000 adolescents, Fisher et al. (2009) found
that parental mediation of sexual TV content was negatively
correlated with adolescents reports of engagement in sexual
behaviors including oral and vaginal intercourse. This was
particularly true for the teenagers of parents who imple-
mented restrictive mediation techniques. In addition, ado-
lescents who di scuss or watch TV with t heir parents
(instructive TV mediation and social coviewing) have better
critical viewing skills and lower sexual activity, and for
Sex Roles (2012) 67:463476 465
girls in particular, increased body- and self-esteem (Peterson
et al. 1991; Schooler et al. 2006). Similarly, among children
who watch TV clips portraying stereotypical gender roles,
those who receive instructive TV mediatio n express greater
acceptance of non-traditional gender roles than do those
who do not (Nathans on et al. 2002). Given the protective
effects of TV mediation against risky sexual behavior for
adolescents and against traditional gender role endorsement
for young children, it is plausible for it to also have a
protective effect against the se lf-sexualiz ation of you ng
girls.
Maternal Religiosity
Parental values such as religiosity may also be important
environmental moderators to consider, given that family
religiosity may be a protective factor against adolescent
early sexual debut and multiple sexual partners (Manlove
et al. 2008; Zaleski and Schiaffino 2000). Many religions
including Christianity value modest dress and actively dis-
courage sexual ized clothing (Mahaney et al. 2007). In addi-
tion, religious belief has been linked to higher self-
acceptance of ones appearance. Stronger religious values
are significantly related to greater body satisfaction and less
dieting (Kim 2006), and religiosity is negatively correlated
with anxiety about aging appearance (Homan and Boyatzis
2009). Religion may also serve as a buffer against medias
negative effects on youth. Ward (2004) found that among
African American youth with hig h me dia consumption,
those who were highly religious had higher self-esteem than
those who were less religious. Maternal religiosity may be
protective against early sexualization of young girls via
modeling (i.e., religious mothers are more likely to model
body acceptance and modesty) or instruction (i.e., religious
mothers may instruct their daughters regarding religious
values and modest dress). That said, the relationship be-
tween religiosity and sexual behavior is a complex one, as
certain Christian evangelical traditions, including virginity
pledges, have been found to be associated with early sexual
debut (Rostosky et al. 2003).
Current Study
Using sexualized and non-sexualized paper dolls as
prompts, this study examined self-sexualization of young
girls in terms of self-identification, preference, and attribu-
tions regarding sexualized dress. In addition, two potential
risk factors and two potential protective factors for girls
self-sexualization were investigated. Our hypotheses were
fourfold:
Hypothesis 1. Prevalence of self-sexualization. Based
on social learning, girls will choose the sexualized doll
more often than the non-sexualized doll as their actual
self (what they look like) and ideal self (what they
would prefer to look like), as more popular, and as a
play toy.
Hypothesis 2. Risk factors for early self-sexualization.
Higher media c onsump tion (TV an d movie s) and
maternal self-objectification will increase girls odds
of choosing the sexualized doll by providing girls
greater opportunities to learn sexualized behaviors
and preferences modeled by media and mothers.
Hypothesis 3. Protective factors for early self-
sexualization. Higher maternal TV mediation, maternal
personal religiosity, and maternal instructive religiosity
will decrease girls odds of choosing the sexualized
doll. This hypothesis is based on the knowledge that
parental TV mediation is a protective factor against
risky sexual behaviors among adolescents, family reli-
giosity may be a buffer against early sexual debut, and
same-gender parental instruction regarding values may
be particularly salient for young girls.
Hypothesis 4. Moderation effect of maternal variables
on the association between media consumption and
self-sexualization. Maternal self-objectification will in-
teract with media consumption to increase the odds that
girls will choose the sexualized doll. That is, exposure
to high level s of two risk factors for sexualization may
be disproportionately worse than exposure to high lev-
els of only one. On the other hand, maternal TV medi-
ation, maternal personal religiosity, and maternal
instructive religiosity, will each interact with media
consumption to decrease the odds that girls will choose
the sexualized doll. That is, exposure to high levels of a
protective factor for sexualization may act as a buffer
against the self-sexualizing effects of high media
consumption.
Method
Participants
Sixty girls rangi ng from 6 to 9 years (M0 7.78, SD0 .98) and
47 of their mothers participated in this study. Most girls
(78 %) were recruited from two public grade schools in
the Midwestern United State s (average of 85 % free and
reduced lunch) and the remaining 22 % were recruited from
a local dance studio (approxim ately 85 % public school
attendance). The average temperature in the Midwestern
region of data collection was 59 °F, and girls were observed
to be dressed prim arily in long-sleeved shirts/sweatshirts
and jeans/sweatpants (covered by a jacket/coat when going
outdoors). The majority of mothers in the sample self-
identified as White (77 %) and the rem ainder self-
466 Sex Roles (2012) 67:463476
identified as Black or African American (13 %), Hispanic or
Latina (6 %), and Multiracial (4 %). In addition, 91.5 % of
mothers described thei r religious views as Christian, 4.3 %
as non-religious or secular, 2.1 % as Buddhist, and 2.1 % as
Unitarian Universalist. Chi-squared analyses showed no
significant differences in race or religion based on recruit-
ment location.
Measures and Materials
Child-Reported Measures
Girls w ere presen ted with two c ol or paper dolls (i.e., a
sexily-clad girl doll and a non-sexily clad girl doll) and were
asked to circle their choice in response to four questions
(listed below). Each response was dummy coded as 1 for
the sexualized doll choice and 0 for the non-sexualized
doll choice. This forced choice task is based on methodol-
ogy used in prior studies to assess young childrens self-
identification, ideal self, preferences and attributions regard-
ing physical appearance (see Cramer and Anderson 2003).
The use of paper dolls as pictorial aids is particularly rec-
ommended for assessing young children. Pilot testing in a
small sample of young girls and teenage girls confirmed that
the sexualized doll was perceived to be significantly more
sexy than the non-sexualized doll. Girls were asked about
their:
Actual Self : Which doll do you think looks most like
you?
Ideal Self: If you could look like one of these two
dolls, which one would you like to look like?
Popularity Attribution: I m going to read you a story.
Listen carefully, because I will ask you [a question]
about the story afterwards. Leila is the most popular
girl in school. She has many friends, and many people
want to sit next to her at the lunch table. Which doll is
Leila?
Play Preference: Which doll would you like to play
with?
Eight dolls total were created (4 pairs of sexualized/non-
sexualized) using an on line doll mak er (Dollz Mania
2008) t argeted towards young girls (see Appendix). To
avoid introducing confounds, each pair of dolls was created
with identical skin tone (light brown), facial features, eye
color, hairstyle, and body posture, and differed only in their
attire. One doll was dressed in revealing, sexualized or
sexy clothing that was skin-tight and revealing (e.g., a
low cut shirt with midriff showing, and short jean shorts),
whereas the other was dressed in styl ish but non-sexualized
clothing (e.g., a v neck sweater, belt, and cargo pants). A
different pair of dolls was used for each of the four questions
and the left/right presentation order of the sexy/non-sexy
dolls was alternated on each successive question to avoid
response sets.
Mother-Reported Measures
Mothers were asked to complete the following measures.
Daughters Media Consumption
Each mother reported the number of weekly hours of media
(defined as TV and movies) viewed by her participating
daughter. Weekly TV and movie consumption hours was
considered an adequate proxy for sexualized media con-
sumption for the purposes of this study based on the
most rec ent content analysis findings that the vast
majority of TV programming (overall and prime time)
contains sexualized material, mostly acted by adolescent
girls in popular teen and tween shows (Kunkel et al.
2005;PTC2010).
Maternal Self-Objectification
The 8-item Body Surveillance subscale of the Objectified
Body Consciousness Scale (McKinley and Hyde 1996) was
used to measure each mothers attention to her own clothing
and the importance placed on looking good (Cronbachs
α0 .87). Sample items include I often worry about whether
the clothes I am wearing make me look good and During
the day, I think about how I look many times. Mothers
responded to items on a 6-point scale from 1 (Strongly
Disagree)to6(Strongly Agree). Per scoring instructions
Not Applicable was counted as missing data and a sub-
scale mean was created for mothers who had 25 % missing
data (all but four).
Television Mediation Scale
Valkenburg et al.s(1999) 15-item Television (TV) Media-
tion Scale was used, which comprises three 5-item sub-
scales: restrictive mediation (α0 .73, e.g., How often do
you forbid your child to watch certain programs?); instruc-
tive mediation (α0 .77, e.g., How often do you point out
why some things actors do are bad?); and social coviewing
(α0 .74, e.g., How often do you watch together just for
fun?). Parents were instructed to respond to each item on a
4-point Likert scale of 1 (Never)to4(Often) and to answer
in reference to the participating daughter. Subscale means
scores were created. To maximize the internal reliability of
the measure, one item was removed from the restric tive
mediation subsca le (How often do you say to your child
to turn off TV when she is watching an unsuitable pro-
gram?, α including item 0 .63), and one item was removed
from the social covie wing subscale (How often do you
Sex Roles (2012) 67:463476 467
watch together be cause of a common interest in a pro-
gram?, α including item 0 .67).
Religiosity
Mothers reported their personal religiosity (How important
is religion to your daily life?) and their instructive religi-
osity (How importa nt do you think it is to teach your
children your religious values?) using a 3-point Likert scale
of 1 (Not important) to 3 (Very important).
Procedure
Girls (30 % participation) received parental permission and
mothers (24 % participation) gave consent. Child-reported
measures were administered orally in group format. Each
girl was given a 4-page stapled packet with one question and
corresponding doll pair on each page. Girls were seated at
least two seats apart and were instructed to circle their doll
choice after each question was read aloud and to focus
on their own packet rather than looking at other partic-
ipants choices. It was reinforced that there is no right
or wrong answer and that participants could stop at
any time. Mothers compl eted their questionnaires at
home.
Results
Fewer than 1 % of the data from 60 girls and <8 % of the
data from 47 mothers (43 mot hers for self-objectification)
were missing, Littles MCAR test, χ
2
(258)0 231, p>.05.
Nonetheless, to achieve the largest sample size for analyses,
missing data points (except for maternal self-objectification)
were imputed using the Expectation Maximization (EM)
algorithm (Demps ter et al. 1977). Means and standard devi-
ations are displayed in Table 1. Recruitment location was
found to be correlated with a number of major study varia-
bles (not demographic variables) and it was added into
analyses as a control variable.
Hypothesis 1: Prevalence of Early Self-Sexualization
A series of chi-squared analyses was used to assess Hypoth-
esis 1 (i.e., more girls will choose the sexualized doll).
Overall, the sexualized doll was chosen significantly more
often for Ideal Self, χ
2
(1, n0 60)0 8.07, p0 .005, Φ0 .37, and
for Popularity Attribution, χ
2
(1, n0 58)0 9.93, p0 .002,
Φ0 .41; but not for Actual Self, χ
2
(1, n0 60)0 .60, ns, or
Play toy Preference, χ
2
(1, n0 60)0 .27, ns. In addition, sig-
nificantly more girls recruited from public schools chose the
sexualized doll compared to girls recruited from the dance
studio. Proportionately more dancers than public school
girls chose the non-sexualized doll for Actual Self, χ
2
(1,
n0 60)0 20.28, p<.001, Φ0 .58, Ideal Self, χ
2
(1, n0 60)0
6.84, p0 .016, Φ0 .34, and Popularity Attribution, χ
2
(1, n0
60)0 13.67, p<.001, Φ0 .47. Neither doll was chosen more
often as a play toy. See Table 2 for a breakdown of doll
choice by recruitment location.
Hypotheses 2, 3, & 4: Risk, Protective, and Moderating
Factors of Self-Sexualization
Hierarchical binary logis tic regression analyses were
employed to predict the probability that girls would choose
the sexualized dolls based on various risk and protective
factors in isolati on and in interaction. In addition to being
the most appropriate analytic strategy to handle the dichot-
omous dependent variables (i.e., doll choice; Agresti 2007),
logistic regression also maximized the power of analyses to
detect interaction effects by avoiding breaking the sample
into smaller groups, which would be required by MANO-
VAs. Separate regression analyses were conducted for each
dependent variable (i.e., Actual Self, etc.). To assess Hy-
pothesis 2 (i.e., higher Media Consumption and Maternal
Self-Objectification will increase girls odds of choosing the
sexualized doll), and Hypothesis 3 (i.e., maternal TV medi-
ation and mat ernal religiosity will decrease girls odds of
choosing the sexualized doll), each continuous predictor and
the covariate (Recruitment Location) were entered in step/
block 1 of regression analyses. To assess Hypothesis 4 (i.e.,
each maternal variable will interact with Media Consump-
tion to either increase or decrease girls odds of will choos-
ing the sexualized doll), 2-way interaction terms were
created using standardized variables an d entered in step/
block 2 of each regression analysis. For theoretical reasons
(i.e., construct differences between the three forms of TV
mediation) and statistical reasons (i.e., to avoid problems
associated with multicollinearity), we conducted separate
regression analyses for each TV mediation variable and each
maternal religion variable, and standardized variables before
creating inte raction terms.
Oneway univariate analyses of variance (ANOVAs) were
used to further investigate significant interactions after di-
chotomizing step 1 variables via median split. An α of .05
wasemployedinallanalysesexcept those containing
Maternal Self-Objectification, in which case α 0 .06 was
used due to the lower n in these analyses. Effect sizes from
means comparis ons are reported as Cohe ns d(M1M2/
pooled S). Results for Recruitment Location mirrored find-
ings from chi-squares, thus they are not repeated below.
Media Consumption
There was a small main effect of Media Consumption (TV
and movies) on girls Popularity Attribution (B0 .08 to
468 Sex Roles (2012) 67:463476
.11, OR0 .89 to .93, coefficients vary slightly because each
model contains different predictors, see Tables 3, 4, 5, 6 and
7). Surprisingly, these effects were not in the hypothesized
direction. Rather, for each 1 hr increase in girls media
consumption, the estimated odds that a girl would choose
the sexy doll as popular decreased by approximately 7
11 %. There were no significant effects of media on Actual
Self, Ideal Self, or Play Preference.
Maternal Self-Objectification
Although there w as no main effect o f Ma ternal Self-
Objectification on doll choice, there was a significant inter-
action between girls Media Consumption and Maternal
Self-Objectification on Popularity Attribut ion, B0 3.76,
p0 .055 (see Table 3). ANOVAs investigating the interaction
indicated that, as expected, among girls with high weekly
media consumption, those who chose the sexy doll as
more popular had significantly higher maternal self-
objectification scores (M 0 3.95, SD0 .84) than those
who did not (M0 2.88, SD0 .70), F(1, 20)0 9.8, p 0 .005,
Cohens d0 1.48. However, there were no significant
differences in maternal self-objectification for girls who
had low media consumption.
Maternal Television Mediation
There was a main effect of Maternal Instructive Mediation
on girls Actual Self in the hypothesized direction (B 0
2.23, OR0 .11). See Table 5. That is, for each one point
increase in mothers instructive mediation on the 4-point
scale, the odds that a girl would self-identify as the sexy
Table 1 Means and standard deviations of main study variables for girls who selected the sexualized versus non-sexualized doll
DV Predictor Sexy doll Non-sexy doll DV Predictor Sexy doll Non-sexy doll
M SD M SD M SD M SD
Actual Media 10.94 9.67 15.56 11.93 Play Media 12.42 10.75 14.34 11.51
Mobject 3.22 1.03 3.63 .94 Mobject 3.25 1.03 3.62 .95
TVr 3.23 .60 3.23 .60 TVr 3.23 .55 3.23 .63
TVi 3.37 .43 3.18 .45 TVi 3.26 .48 3.28 .42
TVc 3.55 .43 3.48 .42 TVc 3.57 .41 3.46 .43
RELpers 1.55 .60 1.44 .65 RELpers 1.70 .47 1.29 .69
RELinst 1.64 .58 1.68 .56 RELinst 1.78 .42 1.54 .66
Ideal Media 13.80 11.72 13.20 10.90 Popular Media 15.38 11.45 12.47 10.94
Mobject 3.26 .98 3.54 1.01 Mobject 2.94 .70 3.71 1.04
TVr 3.34 .52 3.17 .62 TVr 3.27 .65 3.21 .56
TVi 3.35 .50 3.23 .42 TVi 3.28 .51 3.26 .42
TVc 3.47 .46 3.53 .41 TVc 3.52 .43 3.51 .42
RELpers 1.56 .63 1.45 .62 RELpers 1.60 .51 1.44 .67
RELinst 1.69 .60 1.65 .55 RELinst 1.80 .41 1.59 .61
Media 0 Weekly Media Consumption in hours; MObject 0 maternal self-objecti fication (scale 0 1-6);TVr,TVi,&TVc0 restrictive,
instructive, and coviewing mediation, respectively (scale 0 14); RELpers & RELinst 0 maternal pe rsonal religiosity and maternal
instructive religiosity (scale 0 13)
Table 2 Observed numbers
(%) of girls choosing the sex-
ualized versus non-sexualized
dolls (n0 60)
Variable Public School (n0 47) Dance Studio (n0 13)
Sexualized Non-sexualized Sexualized Non-sexualized
Actual self 33 (70 %) 14 (30 %) 0 (0 %) 13 (100 %)
Ideal self 36 (77 %) 11 (23 %) 5 (38 %) 8 (62 %)
Popularity attribution 39 (83 %) 8 (17 %) 4 (31 %) 9 (69 %)
Play preference 27 (57 %) 20 (43 %) 5 (38 %) 8 (62 %)
Sex Roles (2012) 67:463476 469
doll decreased by 89 %. There were no other significant
effects of maternal mediation on girls doll choice.
Maternal Religiosity
There was a significant interaction b etween g irls Media
Consumption and Maternal Personal Religiosity on Ideal
Self (B0 1.16, OR0 .31). See Table 6. ANOVAs indicated
that, as expected, among girls with high weekly media
consumption, those who chose the non-sexualized doll as
their ideal had significantly higher maternal personal religi-
osity scores (M0 1.88, SD0 .35) than those who chose the
sexualized doll as their ideal (M0 1.20, SD0 .68), F(1, 21)0
6.86, p0 .016, d0 1.26. An unexpected finding also emerged
from these analyses. Among girls with low weekly media
consumption, those who chose the sexualized doll as their
ideal had margina lly higher maternal personal religiosity
scores (M0 1.69, SD0 .48) than those who chose the non-
sexualized doll as their ideal (M0 1.25, SD0 .71), F(1, 22)0
3.24, p0 .086, d0 .73. There was also a hypoth esized main
effect of Maternal Personal Religiosity on girls Play Pref-
erence (B0 1.33, OR0 .26). That is, for each one point
increase on the 3-point religiosity item the odds that a girl
would choose the sexy doll as their preferred play toy
decreased by 74 %. In addition, there was a main effect of
maternal instructive religiosity on girls Popularity Attribution
(B0 2.06, OR0 .13). See Table 7. That is, for each one point
increase on the 3-point maternal instructive religiosity
item, the odds that a girl would choose the sexy doll as
popular decreased by 87 %. There was no significant
interaction.
Table 3 Hierarchical logistic regression with maternal self-obje ctificat ion
predicting doll choice
B Wald χ
2
p Odds ratio
Popularity attribution
Recruitment location 2.90 8.64 .003 .06
Girls media consumption .08 3.84 .050 .93
Maternal self-objectification 1.04 2.73 .099 2.84
Girls media consumption ×
maternal self-objectification
3.76 3.69 .055 42.76
For Recruitment Location, public school 0 1 and dance studio 0 2.
Alpha level of p<.06 is used for this analysis due to the lowered n (43).
Non-significant dependent variables (e.g., Ideal Self) are not displayed
Table 4 Hierarchical logistic regression with maternal restrictive me-
diation predicting doll choice
B Wald χ
2
p Odds Ratio
Popularity attribution
Recruitment location 3.47 11.89 .001 .03
Girls media consumption .10 5.68 .017 .91
Maternal restrictive mediation 1.07 2.15 .142 .34
Girls media consumption ×
maternal restrictive mediation
.77 2.94 .087 .46
For Recruitment Location, public school 0 1 and dance studio 0 2.
Non-significant dependent variables (e.g., Ideal Self) are not displayed
Table 5 Hierarchical logistic regression with maternal instructive
mediation predicting doll choice
B Wald χ
2
p Odds ratio
Actual self
Recruitment location 22.87 .00 .998 .00
Girls media consumption .00 .01 .913 1.00
Maternal instructive mediation 2.23 4.38 .036 .11
Girls media consumption ×
maternal instructive mediation
.55 1.27 .260 1.73
Popularity attribution
Recruitment location 3.11 11.73 .001 .05
Girls media consumption .07 4.04 .044 .93
Maternal instructive mediation .45 .25 .615 .64
Girls media consumption ×
maternal instructive mediation
.99 3.37 .066 2.69
For Recruitment Location, public school 0 1 and dance studio 0 2.
Non-significant dependent variables (e.g., Ideal Self) are not displayed
Table 6 Hierarchical logistic regression with maternal personal reli-
giosity predicting doll choice
B Wald χ
2
p Odds ratio
Ideal self
Recruitment location .20 6.67 .010 .13
Girls media consumption .04 1.63 .202 .96
Maternal personal religiosity .64 1.16 .288 .53
Media consumption × maternal
personal religiosity
1.16 3.96 .046 .31
Play preference
Recruitment location .96 1.60 .206 .38
Girls media consumption .02 .24 .622 .98
Maternal personal religiosity 1.33 5.01 .025 .26
Media consumption × maternal
personal religiosity
.08 .06 .803 .92
Popularity attribution
Recruitment location 3.69 11.87 .001 .03
Girls media consumption .11 6.30 .012 .90
Maternal personal religiosity 1.43 3.49 .062 .24
Media consumption × maternal
personal religiosity
.15 .26 .608 .86
For Recruitment Location, public school 0 1 and dance studio 0 2.
Non-significant dependent variable s (e.g. , Actua l Self) are not
displayed
470 Sex Roles (2012) 67:463476
Discussion
Summary
Concerned community members and scholars alike echo
observations regarding the early sexualization of girls in
modern society and the possible contribution of mass media
(Durham 2008;APA2007). The current study was con-
ducted in response to the call from the 2007 APA Task Force
on the Sexualization of Girls for more research on the
prevalence of sexualization and related risk and protective
factors for girls. Using paper dolls, we examined self-
sexualization of young girls in terms of self-identification,
preference, and attributions regarding sexualized dress, and
investigated media consumption hours as a primary risk
factor moderated by certain maternal influences. Findings
were rich and nuanced: three of four hypotheses (#1, 3, & 4)
were at least p artially supported with mainly medium to
large effect sizes. Young girls overwhelmingly chose the
sexualized doll over the non-sexualized doll for their ideal
self and as popular; however, dance studio enrollment, mater-
nal instructive TV mediation, and maternal religiosity (both
personal and instructive) greatly reduced the odds of sexual-
ization. Surprisingly, the mere quantity of girls weekly media
consumption was unrelated to their self-sexualization for the
most part; rather, maternal self-objectification and personal
religiosity moderated its effects. High maternal personal reli-
giosity was both a protective factor and a risk factor based
upon girls level of media consumption.
Sexy Dolls, Sexy Grade-Schoo lers? Yes, for Many
But Not for All
Our findings indicate that there is reason to be concern ed
about the early sexualizat ion of girls. The vast majority of
young girls in our study recruited from the public schools
were sexualized in terms of what they wanted to look like
and their attributions of popularity to sexy appearance. In
fact, girls preference for the skimpily dressed sexy doll
occurred in the face of c old Midwestern we ather during
early spring data collection! These findings are consi stent
with research on the sexualization of adolescents which has
found that teen girls are sexually objectified (Grabe and
Hyde 2009) and identify with sexualized media persona
(Gordon 2008). Findings also support prior research with
elementary school children showing that sexiness boosts
popularity among girls (Adler et al. 1992). The pressure
young girls feel to be sexy in order to be popular may be
part of why they prefer to look sexy; girls anticipate that
they will accrue social advantages, such as popularity, for
buying into the sexualization of girls (i.e., themselves), and
they fear social rejection for not doing so (APA 2007,
p. 18). On the other hand, despite preferring to look like
the sexualized doll and perceiving such a girl to be more
popular, young girls were not significantly more likely to want
to play with it. Granted, girls in the study may have begun to
outgrow doll play or may have been confused about how to
play with a paper doll. Notwithstanding, this finding is inter-
esting in light of the prevalence of sexy dolls sold in stores,
such as Bratz dolls. Doll franchises claim that they produce
sexualized dolls because that is what young girls want to play
with; however, our findings argue otherwise.
Dance studio enrollment emerged as a protective factor
against young girls sexualization. Although unexpected,
this finding supports prior research among adolescent and
adult women: street dancers have higher body appreciation
than non-dancers ( Swami and Toveé 2009 ), experienced
dancers report more positive body image than less experi-
enced dancers (Lewis and Scannell 1995), and aesthetic
sport athletes (e.g., diving, figure skating) have more posi-
tive body image than non-athletes (meta-analysis of 78
studies: Hausenblas and Downs 2001). One possible expla-
nation is that girls and women involved in physical activities
are less prone to sexualization because they become aware
that their b odies can be used for other purposes besides
looking sexy or attractive for others (APA 2007). Daniels
(2009) experiment with adolescent and college-age girls
demonstrated that viewing images of performance athletes
versus sexualized athletes or models produce s a significant-
ly less objectified self-view (i.e., greater focus on physical-
ity than beauty, and fewer body-focused self-descriptions
overall). This may elucidate why none of the young dancers
in this study chose the sexualized doll for their actual self
whereas most of the public school girls did (in actuality,
none of the girls during data collection were dressed like the
sexy doll). On the other hand, one longitudinal study found
that young girls with aesth etic sport participation had more
concerns about weight at age 5 and at age 7 compared to
girls with non-aesthetic or no sport participation (Davison et
al. 2002
). Thus, while dance enrollment may offer young
girls some prote ction from early sexualization, it may si-
multaneously present an increased risk of weight concerns.
Table 7 Hierarchical logistic regression with maternal instructive
religiosity predicting doll choice
B Wald χ
2
p Odds ratio
Popularity attribution
Recruitment location 4.18 12.43 .000 .02
Girls media consumption .11 6.08 .014 .89
Maternal instructive religiosity 2.06 5.04 .025 .13
Media consumption × maternal
instructive religiosity
1.83 1.74 .187 .16
For Recruitment Location, public school 0 1 and dance studio 0 2.
Non-significant dependent variable s (e.g. , Actua l Self) are not
displayed
Sex Roles (2012) 67:463476 471
An alternative explanation for the lack of sexualized
choices among young dancers in this study is that their moth-
ers were significantly less likely to objectify their own appear-
ance. Regression analyses revealed that especially for girls
with high media consumption, having a less self-objectified
mother is a protective factor against early sexualization. The
latter finding will be discussed in more detail below.
Is Media Consumption the Primary Risk Factor for Early
Self-Sexualization?
Whereas our findings lead us to share others (Durham
2008; Levin and Kilbourne 2008) concerns regarding the
prevalence of early sexualization, and we agree with their
assertion that parental TV involvement is an important pro-
tective factor, we do not find media consumption to be the
primary culprit for early sexualization of young girls.
According to our study, the quantity of TV and movies
watched is not, in and of itself, a risk factor for young girls
sexualized self-views, ideals, attributions, or play toy pref-
erences. Rather it is the interaction between media hours
and maternal self-objectification that creates vulnerability
for early sexualizationdaughters with high media con-
sumption whose mothers have a more objectified view of
their bodies are at greater risk for equating sexiness with
popularity. High media consumptio n may provide young
girls a predisposition towards early sexualization which is
only realized for those whose mothers display reinforcing
self-objectifying attitudes and behaviors. Alternatively, girls
of highly self-objectifying mothers may model their mothers
self-objectified attitudes and behavior, and effectively begin to
self-sexualize and self-objectify in the presence of myriad
reinforcing images afforded by high media con sumpti on.
Longitudinal research beginning even earlier in life is needed
to investigate these potential developmental pathways.
Fortunately for young girls with high media consumption,
a second maternal variablehigh personal importance of
religion to mothersacts as a protective factor against their
sexualization. Mothers who see religion as personally impor-
tant may be more likely to model higher body-esteem and
communicate values such as modesty, lessening the likelihood
that their daughters will prefer to look sexy or play with sexy
looking doll, despite what they see on TV/movies.
Inasmuch as high media consumption alone is not the
singular culprit for young girls sexualization, results also
reveal that low media consumption is not a silver bullet.
Rather, young girls with low media consumption may be
more likely to attribute popularity to sexiness, and if their
mothers are highly religious, they may also be more likely to
idealize sexiness. This pattern of results may reflect a case
of forbidden fruit or reactance, whereby young girls who
are overprotected from the perceived ills of media by highly
religious parents (through restriction of TV/movie viewing
time) begin to idealize the forbidden due to their underex-
posure. This interpretation resonates with the findings of an
experimental study by Krcmar and Cantor (1997 ) in which
children who thought their choice of TV program was
limited (either because of a restrictive TV rating or because
of their parents negative appraisal of it) were more likely to
show positive affect when discussing the show. Alternatively,
counterintuitive findings of higher odds of self-sexualization
in the presence of lower media consumption may reflect a
parental reaction to limit some daughters TV consumption
after observing highly sexualized attitudes/behaviors. Crea-
tive experimental research would allow further exploration of
this potential cause-and-effect relationship.
Discrepancies between results of this study and Fisher et
al.s(2009) findings regarding the usefulness of TV restric-
tion may be due to the differences in sample age (young
girls versus adolescent girls, respectively). For adolescents,
higher parental monitoring and restriction of certain activi-
ties is associated with less risky sexual cognitions and less
sexual intentions (Sieverding et al. 2005). According to our
findings, this is not the case of young girls.
Taken together , it appears that the media
s effect on young
girls self-sexualization acts in combination with maternal char-
acteristics, rather than in isolation. Moreover , the mere restric-
tion of young girls media may not be an effective solution;
overprotective parenting strategies may backfire if girls feel
that their personal choices are limited due to their mothers
religious values and/or their own lack of TV exposure.
Buffering Against Early Self-Sexualization: The Protective
Effect of Mothers as Teachers
In line with the recommend ations of several authors and
activists (Durham 2008; Levin and Kilbourne 2008), our
findings indicate that maternal teachi ng is a promising buff-
er against early sexualization. Mothers who instruct their
daughters on the content of TV programs/movies either
during or after shows (e.g., discussing good and bad actions
depicted and explaining how realistic or unrealistic events
are) may reduce the risk that their daughters will have a
sexualized view of themselves. This finding is consistent
with prior youth research in which instructive mediation was
found to be more effective in reducing certain behaviors and
beliefs than social coviewing (Fisher et al. 2009). Findings
also support the recommendations for parents regarding
teaching critical viewing skills (Hogan 2001). Similarly,
mothers who find it important to teach religious values to
their children may also reduce the risk that their daughters
will equate sexiness with popularity. In this matt er, our
findings support the conclusion of the 2007 APA Taskforce:
When parents, through their religious or ethical prac-
tices, commun icate the me ssage tha t that othe r
472 Sex Roles (2012) 67:463476
characteristics are more important than sexuality, they
help to counteract the strong and prevalent message
that it is only girls sexuality that makes them inter-
esting, desirable, or valuable (APA 2007, p. 38).
Thus, reducing the likelihood of early sexualization
of girls requires a more active parenting approach than
simply restricting TV/movies. Mothers who find it im-
portant to teach values and help their daughters apply
these values in real life situations, such as when watch-
ing TV, may be more effective b uffers against their
daughters self-sexualization by preparing them to suc-
cessfully navigate the onslaught of sexualizing messages
out in the world.
Limitations and Recommendations for Future Research
Notwithstanding the modest sample size, the current study
yielded a wealth of interesting findings with mostly medium
to large effect sizes. Nevertheless, this study had some
limitations worth discu ssing. We used a global measure of
TV and movie consumption based on evidence that sexual
content is pervasive across TV genres (Kunkel et al. 2005).
However, this may have masked important differences in the
risk posed by different genres such as educational childrens
programming (e.g., Sesame Street) versus prime time TV
(e.g., Two and a Half Men). In addition, prior studies have
found that sexualized media consumption in particular, rath-
er than general media consumption, is associ ated with early
sexual activity among adolescents (Brown et al. 2006).
Therefore, future work should measure the quality (i.e.,
content), quantity, and nature (e.g., setting) of sexualized
media use, and incl ude other types of media consumption
such as internet and video games. Future studies can also
examine the mechanisms by which maternal variables are
protective against girls early sexualization (e.g., what is the
active ingredient in mothers instructive mediation that
makes it helpful?).
It is possible that despite the advantages of the chosen
data analytic strategy (regression maximizes the n across
analyses unlike ANOVA) some null or marginally signifi-
cant findings were due to insufficient powe r. Therefore,
replication of this study with a larger sample including once
which intentionally oversamples girls enrolled in dance or
other aesthetic sports may be beneficial. Results of this
study may be most applicable to predominantly White,
low to middle income young girls from Christian families
in the Midwestern United States; therefore, replication with
young girls from other racial/ethnic groups, income levels,
religio ns, regions, or c ountries will build on these novel
findings. In addition, future researchers may consider in-
cluding interesting moderators such as socioeconomic sta-
tus, whose inclusion was not possible in the current study
given the already complex nature of the research questions.
For example, recruitment location (public school vs.
dance studio) may have served as a proxy for socioeco-
nomic status (SES). Future research can directly inves-
tigate the potential association between SES and early
sexualization.
Precautions were taken to minimize the potential for peer
pressure in th e gr oup administration proce dure: children
were seated at least two seats apart and instructed to focus
on their own papers while the examiner walked around to
provide individual assistance as nee ded. However, it is
impossible to completely eradi cate the potential for socially
desirable responding in self-report research (e.g., even when
interviewed individually, children may perceive examiner
pressure to choose a given respon se). The forced choice
method used intentionally limited the range of responses
young girls could g ive in order to present the simplest
format for their developmental stage (see Cramer and
Anderson 2003). It is possible that some girls had more
equal preferences for dolls or nuanced attitudes than this
method could capture. Therefore, investigation into the de-
gree of self-identification/preference (e.g., using a Likert
scale) and perceived reason s for doll choices (e.g., asking
girls why they choose the doll they do) may be a valuable
next step for future studies. Follow-up research might ex-
plore other aspects o f sexualized appearance (e.g., body
type/posture), behavior (e.g., peer interactions), and attribu-
tions (e.g., intelligence). Although our dolls task operation-
alized sexualization as wearing skin tight, revealing
clothing (while holding all other physical features constant),
future studies might empl oy other operationalizations such
as seductive body posturing. Investigation of the prevalence
of actual sexualized behaviors among young girls and the
developmental consequences of early sexualization are par-
ticularly important avenues to pursue.
Conclusion
Our study is the first to examine young girls self-
sexualization and attitudes/preferences regarding sexualized
dress. With the notable exception of girls enrolled in dance
classes, young girls overwhelmingly demonstrate a sexual-
ized view of their desired selves and equate sexiness with
popularity. Overall media consumption (TV and movies) is
not on its own a risk factor for early sexualization; rather,
mothers play an important contributory or buffering role in
this process. High media consumption in the presence of
high maternal self-objectification or low maternal religiosity
puts girls at greater risk for early sexualization (double
jeopardy); however, so does low media consumption in the
presence of high maternal religios ity (forbidden fruit). On
the other hand, maternal instruction about TV shows and the
importance placed on teaching daughters religious values
buffers girls from early self-sexualization.
Sex Roles (2012) 67:463476 473
Appendix
Two Pairs of Paper Dolls (Sexualized Doll on Left above
and on Right below)
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476 Sex Roles (2012) 67:463476
... The victim in the present research is engaged in certain empowering behaviors (i.e., studying a lot, hoping to become a female engineer). There is clear evidence that such goals are in direct contradiction to societal pressures for young women to be relationship focused and suppress agentic and/or intellectual pursuits while prioritizing their romantic relationships (see Starr & Ferguson, 2012;Stone et al., 2015). We expected that exposure to sexualized media would prime these types of relationship-focused stereotypical and misogynist beliefs, which would lead to greater perceived blame (i.e., she should not be engaging in such behaviors and focus on her relationship) of a victim with intellectual goals. ...
... Although a full understanding of the underlying mechanisms associated with the current finding is unknown, it is possible that exposure to sexualized music videos may have primed certain biased and stereotypical constructs (e.g., female objectification and misogynous thoughts). Because those constructs would be less compatible with the victim's empowering activities (i.e., intellectual pursuits, see Starr & Ferguson, 2012;Stone et al., 2015), participants would more easily assign culpability (i.e., she should not be engaging in such behaviors) to the IPV victim which, in turn, would desensitize (i.e., reduce empathic responding) third parties to her suffering. Importantly, this possible mechanism would be consistent with the perspective of Weiner and colleagues who argue that exposure to the needs of others stimulates a search for the causes of the person's struggles (see Weiner, 1980Weiner, , 1986. ...
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Although there is growing evidence that receiving positive emotional support (e.g., empathy) facilitates improved mental health outcomes among intimate partner violence (IPV) victims, there has been minimal exploration of factors that might undermine the likelihood of such supportive responses. The current study addressed this issue by examining whether exposure to sexualized music videos would affect IPV victim-directed empathic responding of third-party respondents. In a three-condition design, 243 female Fijian university students viewed sexualized, nonsexualized, or neutral music videos. They then read about a male-to-female IPV incident involving a university student victim who focused heavily on academic success and rated aspiration-related culpability and empathic responding for the victim. Relative to those who viewed neutral and nonsexualized videos, those who viewed the sexualized video reported less victim-directed empathy. Moreover, the impact of video type on empathy was mediated by aspiration-related culpability (i.e., the perception that the victim studied too much). The present research examined, in an understudied, patriarchal population (Fijian women) with an extremely high rate of IPV, how exposure to sexualized music videos can contribute to both greater blame and greater desensitization to the suffering of an IPV victim. The importance of studying third-party responders (bystanders) is that they may represent a fundamental resource for the victim, or by contrast, if they fail to respond empathically, they would be unsupportive to a victim. This provides some directions for facilitating social controls and decreasing social tolerance for harmful patriarchal beliefs and gender-based violence in the Pacific Region of the world.
... The retrogressive movement concerns the widespread sexualization of girls and women. Children and adolescents in most contemporary Western societies are exposed to myriad messages that sexualize and objectify women and girls through media programs, musical videos, advertisements, magazines, and cartoons (e.g., Pacilli, Tomasetto, & Cadinu, 2016;Starr & Ferguson, 2012). Exposure to such messages appears to lead some women and girls to believe that being sexually appealing to men is a core component of the feminine gender role and their own identities (APA, 2007;Bigler, Tomasetto, & McKenney, 2019) and, in turn, is associated with a host of negative consequences (Zurbriggen & Roberts, 2013). ...
... These schemas guide individuals' self-views and behaviors, such that women and men engage in actions that are deemed as appropriate for their own gender while avoiding inappropriate actions (Bandura, 1999;Bigler et al., 2019). For instance, girls might imitate sexualized behaviors to be liked and accepted by peers, as from elementary school they perceive that sexualized girls are more popular than non-sexualized girls (Jongenelis, Pettigrew, Byrne, & Biagioni, 2016;Starr & Ferguson, 2012). ...
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As a consequence of exposure to sexualized messages, girls and women may internalize the belief that sexual attractiveness to men is an important aspect of their identity. Whereas research on internalized sexualization has mainly focused on its consequences for girls' well-being and academic outcomes, the present study (N = 222, women, aged 20 to 29) examined whether internalized sexualization is related to sexist attitudes and tolerance of sexual harassment among young women. It also analyzed internalized sexualization' links to women's views of notorious sexual abuse allegations in the so-called Weinstein scandal and attitudes towards the #MeToo movement, a campaign aimed at combatting sexual harassment and sexual assault. The study was conducted in Italy, a context characterized by pervasive sexualized messages and diffuse criticism against the #MeToo movement. The findings showed that internalized sexualization was associated with stronger endorsement of sexist attitudes and higher acceptance of sexual harassment myths, which worked as sequential mediators of skepticism towards sexual abuse allegations in the Weinstein scandals. Endorsement of sexist attitudes mediated the relation between internalized sexualization and negative attitudes towards the #MeToo movement. This study extends the knowledge on the correlates of sexualization, suggesting that women's internalization of the belief that they should be sexually attractive to men might contribute to reinforce ideologies and attitudes that perpetrate women's mistreatment while diminishing support for social activism on women's behalf.
... Roberts (2013) argued that if sexualized dolls, pole dancing kits, and T-shirts emblazoned with "future hottie" are the available emblems of femininity, then girls will want them as ways of solidifying their membership in their valued gender category. Consistently, Starr and Ferguson (2012) found that when presented with sexualized (resembling Bratz) dolls or nonsexualized paper dolls, 6-to 9-year-old girls indicated that they wished they looked like the sexy doll and thought that the sexy doll would be more popular at school, having more friends and more people wishing to sit next to her at the lunch table. ...
... The influences of sexualization and objectification through media on women is an issue across all ages and starts at a young age. Starr and Ferguson (2012) conducted a study with 60 girls from 6 to 9 years old to understand the extent to which mass media contributes to the effects of early sexualization and objectification on girls. In the study, girls were presented with eight dolls, half designed as "sexualized" and the other half being "non-sexualized." ...
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Current research suggests that women students may be increasingly turning to sex work to help finance their education due to increased economic demands. However, for this to be considered a viable work option, increased acceptance of student engagement in sex work is also necessary. To date, no research has examined empirically the influence of societal factors such as sexualization, objectification and the proliferation of digital technology as factors potentially increasing positive attitudes toward sex work. This exploratory study examined whether the type of sex work influenced young women’s attitudes and if the internalization of sexualization and objectification affected their attitudes. A sample of 150 women students was recruited to complete an online survey consisting of a battery of questionnaires and an embedded within-subjects experiment. The experiment examined attitudes toward five types of sex work varying from webcamming (completely internet-mediated) to street-level (completely direct). The findings suggest that when women can maintain a “distance” between themselves and the client during sex work through digital technology, it leads to more positive attitudes. Women also had negative attitudes towards the importance (evaluation) of sex work but had slightly more positive attitudes towards the strength (activity/potency) of sex work, and potentially, the women who engage in the work. Women’s attitudes were completely unrelated to internalized sexualization and objectification. As attitudes towards sex work were predominately negative, presumptions that social discourses influence young women’s attitudes to become positive, and therefore increase their likelihood of seeking out sex work cannot be supported. Future research should go beyond attitudes towards sex work and explore women’s financial distress and how the intersections of race, sexual identity, (dis)ability and other social locations influence their decisions to enter the sex industry and their experiences within it.
... [1,2] By the end of school-aged children (approximately 7-12 years), most children show different types of sexual behaviors. [3][4][5][6][7] Sexual behaviors of children are manifested mainly by showing private parts to others, trying to touch mother's or other women's breasts, exploring private parts with children their own age (such as "playing doctor" and "I'll show you mine if you show me yours"), looking at pictures of naked or partially naked people, and playing games with children their own age that involve sexual behavior (such as "truth or dare," "playing family," or "boyfriend/girlfriend). The type and frequency of these behaviors and child's sexual knowledge are influenced by cultural and religious beliefs concerning sexuality, children's age, and sexual behaviors of family and friends. ...
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Context: Parents' competence has the most important role in the education of healthy sexual behavior to children under age 12 years. Aims: This study was conducted to evaluate the knowledge and competence of parents in response to their children's sexual behavior. Setting and Design: This population-based survey was conducted in Mazandaran Province, the province in the northern region of Iran, from October to January 2015. Materials and Methods: In this cross-sectional study, 600 parents were selected by a cluster random sampling technique. To assess parents' sexual knowledge and competence, the “Children's Sexual Behavior Questionnaire (CSBQ)” was used to collect data. Mothers and fathers completed the questionnaire separately. Statistical Analysis Used: Descriptive statistics and multiple linear regressions were used for data analysis. Results: Of the total 600 participants (mothers or fathers), 41.3% were fathers. The mean age of fathers and mothers was 34.12 ± 6.32 and 32.24 ± 85.5, respectively. The majority of the parents (66.7%) had an average level of knowledge in response to their children's sexual behavior, whereas only 5% of the parents had appropriate competence in response to sexual behavior of their children. There was a positive association between parents' competence in response to children's sexual behavior and their education (P < 0.001, β = 0.13), and a significant inverse association was observed between parents' competence and their economic status (P = 0.02, β = −0.18). Conclusion: In groups with low education, skill-building training courses are essential. Furthermore, appropriate interventions should be designed for groups with high economic status who do not have a high competence.
... 14,15 Taken together, parental mediation of media use has been shown to decrease risky behaviors. 16,17 More than ever, parents should be intentional about helping youth develop positive media habits. This can be done by modeling healthy behaviors, setting limits, and co-viewing. ...
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Introduction: The purpose of this study was to explore healthcare provider training, comfort, and provision of internet safety counseling. Prior research has demonstrated increased parental concern regarding the pervasive access to the internet by children, including the potential impacts of risky internet behavior and adverse media exposure. Methods: A self-reported survey was provided to a convenience sample of 31 healthcare providers during a mental health training seminar. Responses were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Results: Internet safety counseling, especially regarding risky online behavior, was not a focal point of provider-patient interaction in the sample population. This finding was reinforced with more than half of the respondents indicating that they infrequently or never provide internet safety counseling (n = 17, 56%). While research has placed an emphasis on the importance of discussing the risks of exposure to violence, drugs, and sexually explicit media online, this study found that the topics most often discussed were setting time limits (77%), limiting access to media devices (67%), and supervising internet use (50%). This may be due in part to the fact that most respondents (n = 17, 57%) reported never receiving training on internet safety counseling. Conclusions: Overall, significant deficits were identified in internet safety counseling training for professionals and provision of education for families. These finding were inconsistent with the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations around media use counseling and a point of urgent concern given the increasing time spent on media devices, particularly during the COVID pandemic.
... La sexualización de las niñas ha despertado la preocupación de diferentes colectivos y ha motivado numerosas investigaciones en los últimos años (Durham, 2008;Oppliger, 2008;Starr y Ferguson;Egan, 2013;Graff, Murnen y Krause, 2013;Zurbriggen y Roberts, 2013;Gerding y Stevens, 2018). Se trata de un fenómeno particular que se inscribe en otro general: la sobrecarga de sexualidad de la mujer propia de las sociedades patriarcales (Cobo, 2015). ...
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Instagram es la red social favorita de los millennials. Sus normas comunitarias prohíben los desnudos, salvo en casos de mastectomías, lactancia materna, cuadros y esculturas. Su inteligencia artificial solo detecta porcentajes de piel en fotografías. Al no poseer inteligencia semántica, sus algoritmos no descubren otras formas de hipersexualización. En este subterfugio, niñas y chicas muestran sus cuerpos vestidos y cosificados, con uniformes escolares, rodeadas de elementos infantiles. Recrean el mito de Lolita y consiguen millones de seguidores. Este trabajo describe este oscuro fenómeno para investigar: los hashtags que emplean esa nueva forma de pornografía no censurable por los algoritmos; las percepciones objetivas y subjetivas de esas fotografías; y una propuesta de intervención en materia de género. El trabajo contiene dos fases: una exploración bibliográfica longitudinal, que ahonda en Instagram y sus condiciones de uso, la identidad personal y narratividad, y la inteligencia semántica para leer fotografías; y una indagación que correlaciona la reciprocidad de los hashtags, su denotación normal y su connotación hipersexualizada. Los resultados se ordenan en torno a dos modalidades: niñas que no tienen edad legal para tener una cuenta y chicas que sí tienen edad legal para tener una cuenta. La parte cuantitativa recoge: etiqueta, nombre de la cuenta, país y seguidores. La parte cualitativa explora: descripción de los elementos de las fotografías, significados normales y significados pornográficos implícitos. Se concluye que es necesario: detectar otros hashtags que describan otras pornografías; ampliar esta prospectiva internacionalmente; extrapolar esta investigación a otras redes sociales, como YouTube y TikTok; compartir los resultados con las redes sociales y las Fuerzas y Cuerpos de Seguridad; monitorizar el uso de las redes sociales por parte de los progenitores; formación en los entornos educativos; adquisición de inteligencia semántica por parte de las redes sociales y de los menores.
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Past research suggests that sexualized women are dehumanized and viewing sexualized images negatively impacts viewers’ body image; however, plus-size women are mostly absent from this research. The current studies investigate how sexualization impacts dehumanization of plus-size women and participants’ body image. In Study 1 (N = 277, Mage = 19.52, SD =1.77) men and women viewed images of plus-size and thin sexualized and non-sexualized women and rated the women on traits linked to dehumanization. Results indicated that sexualized thin targets were perceived as less human than plus-size sexualized and non-sexualized targets. Plus-size sexualized targets were also perceived as less human than plus-size non-sexualized targets. In Study 2 (N = 500, Mage = 18.98, SD = 1.51) we investigated the impact of viewing sexualized images on participants’ feelings about their own body. Results indicated that sexualization, but not body size, impacted women’s objectified body consciousness. Men’s body esteem was impacted by the body size of the image. Perceived race of the image also impacted feelings of body control for both men and women. Taken together these results highlight that sexualization, at any body size, impacts women’s views about themselves and sexualized women, at any body size, are dehumanized.
Chapter
Much attention is given to preventing teen pregnancy in the adolescent years, but primary prevention can and should start at a much younger age. Prevention strategies should be targeted at pre-adolescents with parents as leaders in the effort; however, healthcare providers, school systems, trusted adults, and the media are also critical components of this prevention team. This chapter discusses pediatric brain maturation, emphasizes the importance of adult-youth relationships, briefly reviews the risk factors associated with teen pregnancy, and explores methods of prevention that can be applied throughout the pre-adolescent stage of development.
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Self-sexualization is an emerging area of research relevant to clothing researchers as evaluations of sexual appeal often stem from specific items and uses of dress. Our research purpose was to systematically review the available research on self-sexualization. In our review we focused specifically on three topics: what precedes self-sexualizing? What outcomes are associated with self-sexualizing? And how has self-sexualization been operationalized? The time frame for this review was 2007–2020. To locate the 31 journal articles that supplied the data for this research, multiple data bases were searched using the following search terms: self-sexualization, self-sexualizing, and sexual self-presentation. Important precursors to self-sexualization include exposure to media and social media, self-objectification, internalization of sexualization, and desiring attention from others. Empowerment has been studied as an outcome of self-sexualization along with negative inferences concerning both young women and girls that self-sexualize. Operationalization of self-sexualization is varied and likely contributes to inconsistent findings.
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Three predictions based on Levine and Smolak's (1992) developmental model of dieting and eating disturbances were tested: (1) Changes in pubertal status and/or dating status increase the probability of no pathological dieting in middle school girls; (2) concurrent change in pubertal status, dating status, and academic stress increases the probability of sub clinical eating disturbances in girls with a slender body ideal; and (3) the co-occurrence of modeling cues and direct messages from peers and/or family about the importance of weight, shape, and dieting increases the probability of these effects. Three hundred eighty-two girls were asked about menarcheal status, dating status, and academic stress, as well as attitudes about shape, eating behavior, and perceptions of peer and family pressures for slenderness. Results confirmed several of the predictions, suggesting that the interaction among cumulative developmental changes in early adolescence, adherence to a slender body ideal, and sociocultural pressures for thinness may be useful in distinguishing middle schoolers at risk for subclinical eating disturbances from both girls who do not diet and girls whose dieting is or will be “normative.” © 1994 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
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This new work summarizes the research on all forms of media on children, looking at how much time they spend with media everyday, television programming and its impact on children, how advertising has changed to appeal directly to children and the effects on children and the consumer behavior of parents, the relationship between media use and scholastic achievement, the influence of violence in media on anti-social behavior, and the role of media in influencing attitudes on body image, sex and work roles, fashion, & lifestyle. The average American child, aged 2-17, watches 25 hours of TV per week, plays 1 hr per day of video or computer games, and spends an additional 36 min per day on the internet. 19% of children watch more than 35 hrs per week of TV. This in the face of research that shows TV watching beyond 10 hours per week decreases scholastic performance. In 1991, George Comstock published Television and the American Child, which immediately became THE standard reference for the research community of the effects of television on children. Since then, interest in the topic has mushroomed, as the availability and access of media to children has become more widespread and occurs earlier in their lifetimes. No longer restricted to television, media impacts children through the internet, computer and video games, as well as television and the movies. There are videos designed for infants, claiming to improve cognitive development, television programs aimed for younger and younger children-even pre-literates, computer programs aimed for toddlers, and increasingly graphic, interactive violent computer games. *Presents the most recent research on the media use of young people *Investigates the content of children's media and addresses areas of great concern including violence, sexual behavior, and commercialization *Discusses policy making in the area of children and the media *Focuses on experiences unique to children and adolescents.
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In contrast to the large body of research examining the negative effects of idealized media images on girls' and women's body image, little research has investigated whether media images can positively impact body concept among females. Using a between-participants experimental design, this study examined how images of performance athletes, sexualized athletes, sexualized models, and nonsexualized models impacted adolescent girls' and college women's tendency to self-objectify. Participants were 350 adolescent girls and 225 college women who completed a measure of body objectification after viewing photographs. As expected, performance athlete images prompted less self-objectification, suggesting the need for more of this imagery in mainstream media.
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This study explores the cognitive dimensions used by children in differentiating among television characters. By linking content-free judgments of the differences among television characters with content attributes suggested by prior research, a four-dimensional mapping is identified. This cognitive mapping is virtually identical for children at three different ages. Further, dimensions identified are strong predictors of the children's desires to model the social behaviors of the TV characters. The dimensions identified and discussed include those of humor, attractiveness, strength, and activity. The findings also indicate that young boys and girls use the same dimensions in markedly different ways.
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This article draws on data gathered through participant observation with preadolescent children in and outside elementary schools to focus on the role of popularity in gender socialization. Within their gendered peer subcultures, boys and girls constructed idealized images of masculinity and femininity on which they modeled their behavior. These images were reflected in the composite of factors affecting children's popularity among their peers. Boys achieved high status on the basis of their athletic ability, coolness, toughness, social skills, and success in cross-gender relationships. Girls gained popularity because of their parents' socioeconomic status and their own physical appearance, social skills, and academic success. Although boys' gender images embody more active and achieved features than girls', which are comparatively passive and ascribed, these roles embody complex integrations of oppositional elements that expand and androgenize them. The research illustrates subtle changes in children's, especially girls', gender roles, resulting from historical changes in society.