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

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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 child beauty pageant...

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

What are child beauty pageants?

Child beauty pageants are competitions where children, typically young girls, compete to win titles such as “Miss” or “Princess.” Parents or guardians usually enter their children in these pageants, and they are judged on their physical appearance, talent, and stage presence. These pageants have become a popular trend in many countries, and children as young as toddlers can participate. Children dress up in elaborate, high glitz costumes and wear makeup, tiaras, and other accessories to enhance their appearance. Critics of child beauty pageants express concerns about the sexualization of young children and the potential negative impact on their mental health.


The controversy of a child beauty pageant

There are parents who convince little girls and themselves that competing in child beauty 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 taken 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 child beauty pageant competitions attract sexual predators. It must be stated that the reason for Jean Binet’s death is unknown.

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Are beauty pageants a good idea for young girls?

Beauty pageants are a popular event where people can compete to win prizes based on their beauty, poise, and personality. Some argue that pageants can be a good idea because they provide an opportunity for contestants to learn important skills like confidence, poise, and public speaking. They can also offer a chance for participants to make friends and build connections in the pageant world. Additionally, winning a pageant can lead to scholarships or other monetary rewards, which can help contestants achieve their goals. However, there are also concerns that pageants put too much pressure on children and can lead to negative body image issues, low self-esteem, and a focus on physical appearance above all else. Overall, whether beauty pageants are a good idea is a matter of personal opinion and depends on a variety of factors.

How do beauty pageants affect mental health?

Child beauty pageants can have a negative impact on a child’s mental health. The focus on appearance and competition at a young age can lead to issues with self-esteem, body image, and confidence. Participants may begin to believe that their worth is based solely on their looks and performance, leading to feelings of anxiety and depression. Additionally, the pressure to win can be overwhelming and cause undue stress on children. Watching these competitions can also perpetuate harmful ideas about beauty and success in girls and perpetuate the objectification of women. It’s important to promote values beyond physical appearance and talent in children and foster a healthy sense of self-worth in young performers.

Psychologists and psychiatrists largely agree that pageants and beauty contests, 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, children’s beauty pageants 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 heavy makeup, spray tans, false eyelashes, fake hair, 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.

a child posing for child beauty pageant photos

How do child beauty pageants affect a child’s development?

Child beauty pageants can sometimes have a negative impact on a child’s development. These pageants involve children, usually girls, competing to win titles and prizes. While some may argue that these competitions help build confidence and self-esteem, others believe they can lead to issues such as body image disorders, anxiety, and depression. Children as young as toddlers are often subjected to strict beauty standards and intense competition, which can be overwhelming for their age. Parents may spend a lot of money and time preparing their child for these pageants, leading to added pressure and stress. Additionally, the emphasis on physical appearance can overshadow other important aspects of a child’s development, such as intellectual and emotional growth.

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!”

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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