Sexualization of Young Children Linked to Eating Disorder Development

As early exposure to themes of sex becomes the norm, children of younger ages are expressing discontent with their physical appearance. Results from a recent survey suggest that children rank body image among the highest of their concerns, above both self-confidence and social life. Recent research also suggests that nearly 50 percent of femalesbetween ages 11 and 16 would consider cosmetic surgery to improve their appearance. 

These findings have striking implications about the factors comprising young children’s self-image and esteem. Eating disorders are now presenting in children as young as 6 years old, with dieting becoming more common among those under the age of 10.

Such ardent focus on physical appearance also comes in response to overly-sexualized messages from the media. Stars considered favorites among youth (i.e. Miley Cyrus and Vanessa Hudgens) have received much press for exploiting their bodies on stage or through images leaked on the Internet.

The media also speaks to the import of sexuality and attractiveness among youth through TV shows such as “Toddlers and Tiaras.” In this week’s most recent episode, 6-year-old beauty pageant star, Eden Wood, can be seen on stage gyrating her pelvis like a professional stripper during the “talent” portion of the pageant. The message that it is important to be sexy is clear, even if you still have your baby teeth!