The Psychology of Young Girls

What goes through a young girl’s mind when she sees a swimsuit model in a magazine? Or women scantily clothed in a commercial for beer? Or even a commercial for potato chips? Society is inundated with images of what a woman should look like, and how a woman should act. But what is the impact of the degradation of women? What is an 11 year-old really processing as they are constantly bombarded with negative portrayals?

They say that the mind of a human is not fully developed until one reaches their twenties. Popular culture of the 21st century does little to encourage women in reaching their full potential. It seems with each passing year, the pressure mounts exponentially to be the “perfect” woman.

Several months ago, a scientific study (I feel I’m being generous with this intro) released what they “scientifically” found to be the most beautiful woman. She is a young British woman, Florence Colgate. With blond hair, blue eyes and pale skin, Colgate was scientifically declared the most beautiful woman in the world. Beauty personified. But what are the lasting effects of this “study”?

Young girls already struggle with identity issues, and adding insult to injury, now science releases a “study” purporting the definition of beauty. High school-aged, and now even middle school-aged girls deal with the complexities of looking “beautiful.” What girls are actually being told, subliminally and subconsciously, is that they will never achieve success if they do not look a certain way.

It’s interesting to examine the level of retouching and altering that is done to photos of women in commercials and in magazines. These images are often times a shadow of the former person at best. But the finalized product is what is being pushed out for girls everywhere to emulate and idolize.

According to Casa Palmera, an in-patient treatment facility in Del Mar, California, 95 percent of people with eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25. Those critical ages of middle and high school students disproportionately suffer from the after effects of a society that marginalizes women and pigeonholes them into believing they only have certain options in life.

Society is psychologically shifting how young girls think about themselves and their place in the world. Truthfully, parents do play a major role in the development of the child. But when that child leaves the home, they are attacked with visualizations of highly sexualized women. We can’t possibly block out every single negative image thrown at our young girls.

Further, when those depictions begin to leak into what is supposed to be educational, children’s television – the assignment becomes even more difficult. Stations including Nickelodeon and Disney, known for traditionally producing “wholesome” shows, now teeter on the verge of being highly inappropriate for young children. Honestly, I would not let my children watch half of the shows broadcast on these networks.

The old adage says, “it takes a village to raise a child.” Well, if the village is dysfunctional, how then will we begin to raise a generation of strong, independent women? The damage is done, but restoration must begin now.

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