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The Role of Media and Mothering on Young Girls’ Self-Sexualization. Christy R. Starr & Gail M. Ferguson Knox College, Illinois. Young girls are surrounded by sexualized imagery… . There is concern about effect on young girls.

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the role of media and mothering on young girls self sexualization

The Role of Media and Mothering on Young Girls’ Self-Sexualization

Christy R. Starr & Gail M. Ferguson

Knox College, Illinois

there is concern about effect on young girls
There is concern about effect on young girls

Researchers, parents, journalists, and politicians worry our sexualized culture is leading young girls to self-sexualize.

however not much research
However, not much research…

Linked to problems for adolescent and adult women…

  • Mental and Cognitive Health (e.g., Fredrickson et al., 1998).
  • Physical Heath (Fredrickson & Harrison, 2005).
  • Sexual agency (Impett, Schooler, & Tolman, 2006).
  • Self Esteem (e.g., Tolman et al., 2006).

2007 APA taskforce on the Sexualization of Girls

    • We know sexualization is common and problematic for adolescent and adult women
    • We don’t know whether the same is true for young girls
    • We need to better understand risk and protective factors
research questions
Research Questions
  • Are young girls self-sexualizing?
  • What are risk factors?
  • What are protective factors?
participants and procedures
Participants and Procedures
  • Participants
    • 60 girls (6-9 years, M = 7.8) and 48 of their mothers
    • Recruited from public elementary schools (78%) and after school dance classes (22%)
    • Low to middle income mid-westerners
    • 77% European American, 13% African American, 6% Hispanic American, 4% other
  • Procedure: Girls were asked questions in group format, mothers filled out questionnaire on their own.

Self-Sexualization: adapted forced-choice doll measure (Cramer & Anderson[Ferguson], 2003)

  • Which Doll looks like you?
  • Which would you like to look like?
  • Which would you like to play with?
  • Which is more popular?

Girls circled their preference.

measures risk factors
Measures: Risk Factors
  • Media Consumption:
    • Young children learn from the media(e.g. Bandura et al., 1963).
    • Average child watches 28 hours of media a week (McDonough, 2009).
    • ~70% of this media is sexualized (Kunkel et al., 2005).
    • Question: How many hours of TV and movies does your daughter watch each week?
measures risk factors1
Measures: Risk Factors
  • Maternal Self-Objectification:
  • Children model gender-linked behavior (Bussey & Bandura, 1999).
  • Mom’s give daughters cues about desirable appearance (Hill et al., 1990).
  • Teen girls’ body image is related to their mothers’ (Cooley et al., 2008).
  • Objectified Body Consciousness Scale (McKinley & Hyde, 1996).
  • Sample Q: “I often worry about whether the clothes I am wearing look good”
measures protective factors
Measures: Protective Factors

Maternal TV Mediation:

  • Reduces risky behavior in teens (Fisher et al., 2009).
  • Enhances acceptance of non-traditional gender roles (Nathanson et al., 2002).

15 Item TV Mediation Scale (Instructive, Restrictive, and Co-viewing; Valkenburg et al., 1999).

Sample Q: “How often do you point out why some things actors do are bad?”

measures protective factors1
Measures: Protective Factors

Maternal Religiosity

  • Related to greater body satisfaction and less dieting (Kim, 2006).
  • Higher self-esteem among Black youth with high media consumption (Ward, 2004).

“How important is religion to your daily life?”

“How important do you think it is to teach your children your religious values?”

results q1 are young girls self sexualizing
RESULTS Q1: Are young girls self-sexualizing?

Chi-square analysis was used to determine significance.

Ideal Self: χ2(1) = 8.1, p = .005

Popular: χ2(1) = 9.9, p = .002

sexualization differed by location
Sexualization differed by location

Dance Studio Enrollment was significantly related to lower sexualized preference.

% of Girls Choosing the Sexualized versus Non-Sexy Dolls (n = 60)

q2 what are the significant risk factors
Q2: What are the significant risk factors?
  • Media consumption alone? Not Significant.
  • Maternal Self-objectification alone? Not Significant.
  • Media X Maternal Self-Objectification Significant

(B = 3.76, p = .05)

Choice of sexy doll as popular

q3 what are the significant protective factors
Q3: What are the significant protective factors?

Maternal TV Mediation

  • Restrictive Mediation? Not Significant
  • Co-viewing? Not Significant
  • Instructive Mediation? Significant Main Effect for Actual Self doll choice (B = -2.2, p = .04)

Choice of Sexy Doll as Actual Self

q3 what are the significant protective factors1
Q3: What are the significant protective factors?

Maternal Religiosity

  • Religiosity Alone? Significant for Popular and Play Pref.

(B = -2.1, p = .03 & B= 1.3, p = .03)

  • Media Alone? Not Significant
  • Maternal Religiosity X Media? Significant for Ideal Self

Choice of sexy doll as Ideal Self

summary and discussion
Summary and Discussion
  • There’s reason for concern A majority of young girls are self-sexualized
  • Risk factors were nuanced:

Double Jeopardy Effect

NOT SIMPLY high TV/movie time BUT ALSO highly self-objectified mom

Forbidden Fruit Effect

Low TV/movie time AND ALSO a highly religious mother

summary and discussion1
Summary and Discussion
  • Some protective factors were also nuanced/unexpected
    • NOT simply watching TV along side daughter BUT ALSO instructing her on what is good/bad
    • UNEXPECTED: Dance Studio Enrollment

Dancers have higher body appreciation (Swami & Tovee, 2009).

Dancers more aware that their body can be used for things besides looking good for others (APA, 2007).

limitations and future research
Limitations and Future Research
  • “Raw hours” media measure – What about content?
  • Mothers only – What about dads, other role models?
  • Additional moderators – Socio-economic status?
  • Modest sample size – replication studies needed
closing thought moms are key
Closing thought: Moms are key

Many mothers feel they can do nothing in the face of the media and sexualizing culture, but they may reduce the risk of young girls’ sexualization by…

  • Instructing daughters about media
  • Sharing their values with their daughters
  • Teaching them to appreciate what their bodies can do over what they look like (e.g., dance)

Comments or Questions?

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Moms are key players in reducing the risks!