Sexualized Clothing on Kids Sends Troubling Signals
Preteen girls whoِ dress inِ sexualized clothing areِ judged asِ less competent andِ less moral thanِ kids inِ age-appropriate garb, newِ research finds.
Earlier studies haveِ foundِ that adult women whoِ dress inِ revealing clothing areِ seen asِ less competent thanِ women whoِ areِ more buttoned-up.
Clothing forِ young girls hasِ becomeِ increasing sexualized, saidِ Sarah Murnen, a social psychologist atِ Kenyon College inِ Ohio andِ the senior author ofِ the newِ study.
Childlike versus sexy
The researchers recruited 162 students, 106 ofِ them women, toِ view photographs ofِ a prepubescent blonde white girl wearing oneِ ofِ three differentِ outfits andِ rate themِ onِ traits suchِ asِ competence andِ intelligence.
In theِ childlike condition, theِ girl wore a gray shirt withِ ruffled sleeves, jeans andِ Mary Jane-style shoes.
In theِ ambiguously sexualized condition, theِ girl wore a modest-length dress withِ a leopard-print pattern — a pattern thatِ isِ often associatedِ with sexy clothes, butِ is notِ overtly sexual.
Sexualization and self-respect
They didِ see herِ asِ less competent andِ less moral andِ less self-respecting, asِ if weِ areِ blaming theِ girl forِ wearing thatِ clothing, Murnen said.
Most likely, sheِ added, preteens whoِ pick theseِ clothes aren’t doingِ so outِ ofِ a desire toِ appearِ sexual, butِ out ofِ a desire toِ fit inِ andِ look stylish.
But ifِ teachers orِ other authority figures makeِ these negative judgments, sheِ said, theyِ mayِ write themِ offِ asِ bad students andِ pay themِ lessِ attention.
Sexy clothing may also be a problem for reasons internal to the girl, Murnen said.
Monitoring yourِ body inِ terms ofِ howِ it looksِ — self-objectification — hasِ beenِ found toِ beِ unhealthy inِ terms ofِ increasing body dissatisfaction andِ putting people atِ risk forِ depression andِ eating disorders, Murnen said.
I thinkِ thatِ this monitoring ofِ the body starting soِ early isِ putting girls atِ risk.