A new study recently published in a journal called Sex Roles asked 60 girls between the ages 6 and 9 to choose between two identical paper dolls—one wearing revealing clothing and the other wearing “stylish but non-sexualized clothing.” Asked which one they’d rather look like and which would be more popular, the girls “overwhelmingly” chose the sexier doll. But there was another interesting finding: the researchers concluded that more than sexualized media, it was the interaction between the media and having moms who viewed themselves as sex objects that led girls to pick the sexy dolls.
“Girls of highly self-objectifying mothers may model their mother’s 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 consumption,” the researchers said.
But on the flip side was much more encouraging news: girls whose mothers talked with them about the shows they watched and used TV and movies as teaching moments about bad behavior and unrealistic scenarios were less likely to have daughters who said they looked like the sexy doll.
So if a mom sits down with her young girls with the remote pause button at the ready and talks to them about what they’re seeing on the screen, why it’s wrong and how it should be done differently, the girls will be prepared to reject the highly sexualized images in the television shows. Though the sample was too small to draw scientifically valid conclusions, the study is encouraging because it indicates that moms have much more influence over the mindsets of their girls than perhaps they realize. What it points to is the need for mothers and daughters to continually engage in dialogue about everything they see and hear around them.