In , APA adopted a policy resolution on Violence in Mass Media, which updated and expanded an earlier resolution on televised violence. That report provided recommendations to restrict advertising that is primarily directed at young children and to include developmentally appropriate disclaimers in advertising, as well as recommendations regarding research, applied psychology, industry practices, media literacy, advertising and schools.
These resolutions and reports addressed how violent media and advertising affect children and youth, but they did not address sexualization. The task force was charged with producing a report, including recommendations for research, practice, education and training, policy and public awareness.
This report examines and summarizes psychological theory, research and clinical experience addressing the sexualization of girls. The report a defines sexualization; b examines the prevalence and provides examples of sexualization in society and in cultural institutions, as well as interpersonally and intrapsychically; c evaluates the evidence suggesting that sexualization has negative consequences for girls and for the rest of society; and d describes positive alternatives that may help counteract the the influence of sexualization.
There are several components to sexualization, and these set it apart from healthy sexuality. All four conditions need not be present; any one is an indication of sexualization. The fourth condition the inappropriate imposition of sexuality is especially relevant to children. Anyone girls, boys, men, women can be sexualized. But when children are imbued with adult sexuality, it is often imposed upon them rather than chosen by them.
Self-motivated sexual exploration, on the other hand, is not sexualization by our definition, nor is age-appropriate exposure to information about sexuality. The APA Board of Directors is in the process of appointing a task force to review the literature published in the area since the current policy statement was adopted.
The task force will report its findings and recommendations on potential changes to the APA policy statement when its work is completed. Evidence for the sexualization of girls Virtually every media form studied provides ample evidence of the sexualization of women, including television, music videos, music lyrics, movies, magazines, sports media, video games, the Internet and advertising e.
Some studies have examined forms of media that are especially popular with children and adolescents, such as video games and teen-focused magazines. In study after study, findings have indicated that women more often than men are portrayed in a sexual manner e. In addition, a narrow and unrealistic standard of physical beauty is heavily emphasized. These are the models of femininity presented for young girls to study and emulate.
In some studies, the focus was on the sexualization of female characters across all ages, but most focused specifically on young adult women.
Although few studies examined the prevalence of sexualized portrayals of girls in particular, those that have been conducted found that such sexualization does occur and may be increasingly common. Although relatively few 1. Furthermore, the percentage of sexualizing ads increased over time.
Although extensive analyses documenting the sexualization of girls, in particular, have yet to be conducted, individual examples can easily be found. These include advertisements e. Research documenting the pervasiveness and influence of such products and portrayals is sorely needed. Parents may contribute to sexualization in a number of ways. For example, parents may convey the message that maintaining an attractive physical appearance is the most important goal for girls.
Some may allow or encourage plastic surgery to help girls meet that goal. Both male and female peers have been found to contribute to the sexualization of girls — girls by policing each other to ensure conformance with standards of thinness and sexiness Eder, ; Nichter, and boys by sexually objectifying and harassing girls.
Finally, at the extreme end, parents, teachers and peers, as well as others e. If girls purchase or ask their parents to purchase products and clothes designed to make them look physically appealing and sexy, and if they style their identities after the sexy celebrities who populate their cultural landscape, they are, in effect, sexualizing themselves.
Girls also sexualize themselves when they think of themselves in objectified terms. Numerous studies have documented the presence of self-objectification in women more than in men.
Ample evidence testing these theories indicates that sexualization has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, sexuality and attitudes and beliefs. Although most of these studies have been conducted on women in late adolescence i.
One study demonstrated this fragmenting quite vividly Fredrickson et al. While alone in a dressing room, college students were asked to try on and evaluate either a swimsuit or a sweater. While they waited for 10 minutes wearing the garment, they completed a math test. The results revealed that young women in swimsuits performed significantly worse on the math problems than did those wearing sweaters.
No differences were found for young men. In other words, thinking about the body and comparing it to sexualized cultural ideals disrupted mental capacity. Mental and physical health Research links sexualization with three of the most common mental health problems of girls and women: Several studies on both teenage and adult women have found associations between exposure to narrow representations of female beauty e.
Research also links exposure to sexualized female ideals with lower self-esteem, negative mood and depressive symptoms among adolescent girls and women. Self-objectification has been linked directly with diminished sexual health among adolescent girls e. Attitudes and beliefs Frequent exposure to media images that sexualize girls and women affects how girls conceptualize femininity and sexuality.
Impact on others and on society The sexualization of girls can also have a negative impact on other groups i. Adult women may suffer by trying to conform to a younger and younger standard of ideal female beauty. More general societal effects may include an increase in sexism; fewer girls pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics STEM ; increased rates of sexual harassment and sexual violence; and an increased demand for child pornography.
Positive alternatives to the sexualization of girls Some girls and their supporters, now and in the past, have resisted mainstream characterizations of girls as sexual objects.
A variety of promising approaches exist to reduce the amount of sexualization that occurs and to ameliorate its effects. Because the media are important sources of sexualizing images, the development and implementation of school-based media literacy training programs could be key in combating the influence of sexualization. There is an urgent need to teach critical skills in viewing and consuming media, focusing specifically on the sexualization of women and girls.
Other school-based approaches include increased access to athletic and other extracurricular programs for girls and the development and presentation of comprehensive sexuality education programs.
Strategies for parents and other caregivers include learning about the impact of sexualization on girls and coviewing media with their children in order to influence the way in which media messages are interpreted. Action by parents and families has been effective in confronting sources of sexualized images of girls.
Organized religious and other ethical instruction can offer girls important practical and psychological alternatives to the values conveyed by popular culture. Girl empowerment groups also support girls in a variety of ways and provide important counterexamples to sexualization. Research A solid research base has explored the effects of having an objectified body image or viewing objectified body images in the media.
Much previous work, however, has focused on women. Future studies focusing on girls are needed. In addition, more culturally competent, focused work is required to document the phenomenon of the sexualization of girls; to explore the short- and long-term harm of viewing, listening to and buying into a sexualized pathway to power; and to test alternative presentations of girlhood, sexuality and power.
We recommend that psychologists conduct research to: Document the frequency of sexualization, specifically of girls, and examine whether sexualization is increasing. Examine and inform our understanding of the circumstances under which the sexualization of girls occurs and identify factors involving the media and products that either contribute to or buffer against the sexualization of girls. Examine the presence or absence of the sexualization of girls and women in all media but especially in movies, music videos, music lyrics, video games, books, blogs and Internet sites.
In particular, research is needed to examine the extent to which girls are portrayed in sexualized and objectified ways and whether this has increased over time. In addition, it is important that these studies focus specifically on sexualization rather than on sexuality more broadly or on other constructs such as gender-role stereotyping.
Explore differences in presentation of sexualized images and effects of these images on girls of color; lesbian, bisexual, questioning and transgendered girls; girls of different cultures and ethnicities; girls of different religions; girls with disabilities; and girls from all socioeconomic groups.
Identify media including advertising and marketing alternatives to sexualized images of girls, such as positive depictions of sexuality. Identify effective, culturally competent protective factors e. Evaluate the effectiveness of programs and interventions that promote positive alternatives and approaches to the sexualization of girls. Explore the relationship between the sexualization of girls and societal issues such as sexual abuse, child pornography, child prostitution and the trafficking of girls.
Research on the potential associations between the sexualization of girls and the sexual exploitation of girls is virtually nonexistent, and the need for this line of inquiry is pressing.
Investigate the relationships between international issues such as immigration and globalization and the sexualization of girls worldwide. Document the global prevalence of the sexualization of girls and the types of sexualization that occur in different countries or regions and any regional differences in the effects of sexualization. Assess the effects of sexualization on immigrant girls and determine whether these effects are moderated by country of origin, age at immigration and level of acculturation.
Researchers who are conducting studies on related topics e. Practice As practitioners, psychologists can perform a valuable service by raising awareness of the negative impact of the sexualization of girls — on girls, as well as on boys, women and men.
As individuals and in collaboration with others, practitioners are encouraged to address the sexualization of girls. That APA make the Report of the Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls stsreaexbayessebfysbxzvaaaqdzwvwbusev PDF, KB available to practitioners working with children and adolescents in order to familiarize them with information and resources relevant to the sexualization of girls and objectifying behavior on the part of girls.
That APA make the Report of the Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls available to practitioners as a source of information on assisting girls in developing the skills necessary to advocate for themselves and counter these adverse messages, taking into account the impact and influence of family and other relationships. Education and training Education and training focusing on the prevalence and impact of the sexualization of girls are needed at all levels of psychology to raise awareness within the discipline of psychology and among psychologists about these important issues.
That APA disseminate information about the Report of the Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls to instructors at the middle-school, high-school and undergraduate levels and to chairs of graduate departments of psychology. That chairs of graduate departments of psychology and of graduate departments in other areas in which psychologists work be encouraged to consider information from the Report of the Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls as curricula are developed within their programs and to aid in the dissemination of the report.
Public policy APA, in collaboration with other organizations and through its advocacy efforts, is encouraged to advocate for and better support understanding of the nature and impact of the sexualization of girls, as well as identification and broad implementation of strategies to combat this serious societal problem. That APA advocate for funding to support needed research in the areas outlined above.
That APA advocate for funding to support the development and implementation by public agencies and private organizations of media literacy programs, including interactive media, in schools that combat sexualization and objectification.
That APA advocate for the inclusion of information about sexualization and objectification in health and other related programs, including comprehensive sex education and other sexuality education programs. That APA work with Congress and relevant federal agencies and industry to reduce the use of sexualized images of girls in all forms of media and products. Public awareness The task force offers the following recommendations with the goal of raising public awareness about this important issue.
Achieving this goal will require a comprehensive, grassroots, communitywide effort. Participants and stakeholders will include parents and other caregivers, educators, young people, community-based organizations, religious communities, the media, advertisers, marketing professionals and manufacturers.
Overarching strategies will be needed to build linkages and partnerships among the community members. If the goal of raising public awareness is left unmet, the mission of this work will be significantly curtailed. That APA seek outside funding to support the development and implementation of an initiative to address the issues raised in this report and identify outside partners to collaborate on these goals. The long-term goals of this initiative, to be pursued in collaboration with these outside partners, should include the following: Media use, dietary restraint, bulimia, and attitudes toward obesity: