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"Toddlers and Tiaras" Beauty Pageants: Are They Good For Our Children?

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

Would you enter your child into a beauty pageant? This is a controversial issue along which responsible parents and caring adults are divided.

There are parents who convince themselves that their competing in pageants is run under religious auspices makes it perfectly safe. In addition, parents believe that pageants are a good thing for their children because it builds self confidence and esteem. There are even parents who state that their daughters asked to compete. However, should a four year old be taken seriously if she asks to be in a pageant? In fact, should a ten year old be takne seriously and, do we agree to do everything our children ask?

On the other hand, there are people who have a dim view of these child pageants. First, they cite the tragic case of Jean Binet Ramsey, a participant in a pageant, who was found murdered. Many believed that her death was directly connected to the pageant she was in. Many people caution that these beauty competitions attract sexual predators. It must be stated that the reason for Jean Binet’s death is unknown.

Psychologists and psychiatrists largely agree that pageants, such as “Toddlers and Tiaras,” reinforce negative female body image issues that result in eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. As evidence of this they mental health experts point out the trend towards the onset of eating disorders at much younger ages than ever before. For example, beauty competitions emphasize the “barbie doll” image of what a beauty queen should look like. The trouble is that there is no way for a human being to look that way because it is so exaggerated.

Mental health experts emphasize the fact these child pageants have the effect of sexualizing girls. In other words, the stereotyped thinking that females as sexual objects is detrimental to these kids. Their make up, clothes and types of dances all focus on being sexy. If you have any doubt about this, just watch the television show to see for yourself.

It’s important to raise the question about whether these children are living out fantasy wishes harbored by their mothers. In other words, under this theory, the mothers are using the children to fulfill their own childhood wishes and dreams. The concern about this is that the children are narcissistic extensions of their mother rather than growing into the independent people they should become.

 Isn’t it more important to focus our children, male and female, on the truly important achievements in a competitive world, such as math and science? Are toddlers and ten year old children being asked to compete in Math, English, Foreign Language and Science “pageants?  What are the values that are being communicated by putting children through beauty pageants?

I am reminded of a young female patient who reported to me that, when men told her she was very beautiful, her quick retort was, “So what, it isn’t anything I did!”

What are your thoughts and opinions about this issue?

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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