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Little Girls in Beauty Pageants

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Pageants: Little Girls in Beauty Pageants
Terry Williams-Reed
Western Governors University

Pageants: Little Girls in Beauty Pageants

In today’s society, being beautiful is very important to women and many little girls. Beauty pageants are a major source of entertainment for little girls. Beauty pageants have been around a long time, setting a trend in thee American’s society. Children as young as two months old are being entered into the world of beauty pageants. While the beauty pageant industry continues to grow, the controversy surrounding the effects and harms these pageants can have on the contestants has also grown. Children are entered in to these competitions for a variety of reasons. Maybe some of the potential prizes awarded to the winners tempt many parents to get their children involved in these events. There are many risk factors that may take effect in some children, like developing eating disorders and having mental health problems. This not only takes their innocence away, but also makes them likely to develop several mental and emotional imbalances later in life. The glitter and glitz of the glamorous life with its elegant dresses, elaborate hair-dos, sparkling tiaras, heavy make-up, and the deafening applause is short-lived. These fairy tales fades away into a nightmares that can leave these children with a notion of a world that is not as they had dreamed it to be. The benefits which come from most of these pageants are tiaras, trophies and large scholarships. Many of the top prizes for these pageants are college scholarships. These young participants also have to put forth an image of outstanding behavior and social manners. All pageants are put together differently, and until there are laws and rules put in place for these pageants, young children may continue to be forced by their parents to participate in what could ultimately become damaging to their mental health. Parents and society need to protect a child’s innocence’s and creativity because beauty pageants complicate it. While some parents take advantage of that innocence, the child loses sight of what is truly a fantasy, a dream or reality. Research suggests that participation in beauty pageants by some girls may be problematic because these competitions may contribute to aggressive behaviors, eating disorders and other health issues, and derail their opportunities for higher education.
Beauty pageants may lead to aggression in some children because of the enormous pressure and stress competing brings. Aggression in children has long lasting effects on social development and is relatively stable for a child who becomes aggressive at an early age, and if untreated has a poor prognosis. Aggression is an unprovoked attack or harmful action against another (Dictionary, n.d). Berkowitz (1962) has suggested that competition constitutes a frustrating situation which generates anger and which frequently results in aggressive behavior. There have been a number of classifications and dimensions of aggression. These depend on such things as whether the aggression is verbal or physical; whether or not it involves relational aggression such as covert bullying and social manipulation; and whether harm to others is intended or not. The pageant itself is very competitive, very stressful, and somewhat demanding. TV shows like “America’s Next Top Model” and the “Toddlers & Tiaras,” document the dysfunction that ensures when ambitious mothers seek to validate their daughters’ beauty. Girls in American society often get the message to be competitive, but don’t be too aggressive, do your best, never let them see you sweat, look beautiful, and always be pleasant. Competition among girls begins at an early age, such as trying to land a spot on the school’s basketball team; it’s hard not to be competitive with your classmates. In order for most of these girls to be successful, they are pressured to be extremely competitive both academically and athletically. Several studies have indicated that, as contrasted to success, failure in competitive situations lowers self-esteem and results in increased imitation (Gelfand 1962; Kanarefg & Lanzetta 1960). Competition itself has proven to be very stressful; therefore, a participant who really wants to win a pageant might have to increase her aggression level to a point of embarrassment.
Beauty pageants may increase the risk for eating disorders and many other health issues. Weiner, (2009) states that the children in beauty pageants have been linked to three of the most common mental health problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression. In a study authored by Ackard, and Henderson, Wondelich, (2011) they analyzed the association between childhood beauty pageants and problems that can creep up later, the authors determined there was an association with adult disordered eating, body dissatisfaction, depression, and self-esteem. The results of the study showed that women who participated in pageants during childhood did score higher on health issues like body dissatisfaction, interpersonal distrust, and impulse dysregulation than the women who did not participate in childhood pageants. Dysregulation is an emotional response that is poorly modulated, and does not fall within the conventionally accepted range of emotive response (Dictionary, n.d). Pageant children are always spending time practicing, attending rehearsals, fittings, and traveling countless miles to make appointments. The pageant parents find it hard to fit time in for their children to have regular meal time. Parents often bring snacks for the children during the pageants because these pageants last for hours at a time. Even though some of the snacks are healthy, it is not a meal and does not consist of the proper nutrition they require. Not eating proper foods can cause the children to have poor nutritional habits. For the girls who develop image obsessions, it appears that the hypercritical environment of their youth produces a drive towards the unattainable goal of physical perfection (Cartwright, 2011). Several mechanisms have been proposed to explain findings of familial aggregation of eating disorders (Strober & Humphrey, 1987; Strober, Lampert, Morrell, Burroughs, & Jacobs, 1990), and of similarities between mothers and daughters on measures of eating disorder symptoms (Attie & Brooks-Gunn, 1989: Pike & Rodin, 1991). In addition to the issues of eating disorders, beauty pageants may lead to other health concerns. Looks are actually what counts in beauty pageants. Moreover, she has to always look pretty, wear make-up and behave in an adult manner. Naturally, these children suffer from mental problems like low self-esteem, depression and eating disorders Malnutrition set in their body sometimes at the young age of 14 or 16 (Byrnes, 2009). Many girls that take part in the beauty pageants are getting artificial tans, which contain a dangerous agent called Dihydroxyacetone that causes skin irritation, hair follicle irritation, and lung irritation. Some of the effects caused by tanning creams and sprays are undesirable staining, darkened scaly lesions, and peeling which could be permanent. Another health issue with the children is the hair sprays that they frequently used. Parents are using these aerosol hairsprays on their daughter’s hair to maintain stiffness though out the time of the pageant. Hairsprays contain a group of active ingredients (polymers and solvents) in addition to one or more propellants. Polymers are responsible for hair spray’s glue-like effects which can lead to long term hair lost. Polyvinylpyrrolidone, is a Vegetable gums and gum Arabic, while alcohol and hydrocarbons make up the solvent portion (Hanes, 2011). These are just a few health issues beauty participants may experience while participating in beauty pageants throughout their life. Annie W. Mobley, a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives, has proposed a bill that would establish a study committee to assess the need for child pageant regulations. If this is passed, this study committee would voice their concern about the concerns in that the beauty pageants industry that is not only harmful to the child by also cause’s mental disorders. Some beauty pageants may be problematic because it may derail the participant’s opportunities for higher education. The money parents are spending on beauty pageants is better spent on the future education of the children. There should be a real concern about their future education and what would become of the little girls that have invested in these pageants. According to the Better Business Bureau, not too many pageantry competitors land modeling careers when they mature (Nussbaum, 2011). The potential rewards these beauty participants could win, is very tempting to the parents. One girl could win enough scholarship money to pay for her college education, while most of the girls will walk away with only a tiaras or trophies. Many parents will spend about $100 to $200 on pageant clothing, even though some parents pay as much as a whopping $1000 for a glitzy gown (Levey, 2000). Pageants all over the world are becoming more and more expensive and parents are willing to pay whatever the cost is. According to Dorothy Poteat, director of Southern Elite Pageants based in Chapel Hill, NC,” the very low end of the spectrum cost is $400 to $500, minimum, per glitz pageant. The midrange is $1,500, but I have seen parents drop $3,500 or more in preparations for this one big day. A glitz pageant six times a year can easily run $10,000. College tuition is considered to be just as expensive as beauty pageants if not more” (2011). Research indicates that one factor that cuts across demographic characteristics of determining success as students enter college is how well prepared students are to take college-level courses upon entry (Greene, 2000; McCabe & Day, 1998; Reason, 2003). McClenney (2004) has reported that half of all first time community college students are in need of developmental education in English, math, and reading. Pageants are not hobbies or things to do to pass the time anymore, pageants have become time consuming and very costly. Some children who participate in these pageants have little time for their studies, to consult a tutor, or to practice social skills needed for interacting well with others. A recent study shows that these beauty participants may need more academic help. Colleges are facing an increasing population of students who begin their college experience in developmental education classes in reading, math, and/or English (Gallard, Albritton, Frank, Morgan, Mark 2010). This may be why many children are unsuccessful in attaining a form of degree, sometimes because they are deterred by their lack of preparation and readiness for college. “The plain truth of the matter is that if children don’t succeed in early developmental educational growth, they simply won’t have the opportunity to succeed anywhere else” (McClenney, 2004). Recent surveys from the College Board reports that a moderate college tuition for an in state public college for the 2011-2012 academic year averaged $21,440. A moderate budget at a private college averaged $42,224 (Gallard, Albritton, Frank, etc. 2010). These costs are all overwhelming; many pageant parents may be unaware of the cost of higher education. If parents knew the price of college fees before entering their children in beauty pageants they may reconsider their decisions on exactly how may beauty pageants they would participate in. There also needs to be a concern that college is something that has to be planned and budgeted for. In conclusion, research suggests that participation in beauty pageants by some girls may be problematic because these competitions may contribute to aggressive behavior, eating disorders and other health issues, and derail their opportunities for higher education. Beauty pageants may lead to aggression in some children because of the enormous pressure and stress competing brings. In reality, the world is so captivated by watching adults compete aggressively that society does not consider aggressive behavior a problem. Parents are often the reason some children become this way because children see the way parents are acting aggressively around them. Pageant parents must control their own tempers in order for the child to learn to compete fairly and have fun doing it. Most popular kids, except those at the absolute top of the social ladder are the one who will most likely act out aggressively toward other children. Beauty pageants may increase the risk for eating disorders and many other health issues. Eating disorders are becoming more common among little girls that participate in beauty pageants. The total physical appearance of a beauty contestant is very important. The child’s nutrition and health should be the number concern parents have. Children should have meals at a regular time that include healthy foods. Some beauty participants may derail their opportunities for higher education, because they themselves may get caught up in all the glamor and lights beauty pageants offer. If the goal is to win scholarship money for college parents should put this as a goal and not lose sight of that goal. Society pushes images of beauty on women and girls which add to the allure of beauty pageants. However, parents are ultimately responsible for the overall well-being and happiness of their children. The goal should always be for children, including those who participate in pageants, to become well-adjusted adults.

Byrnes, F. (2009, May 2) Eating disorders and beauty pageants: Short stories on eating disorders and beauty pageants. Article Doctor. Retrieved from www.articledoctor.com7eatingdisorders[->0]

Catwright, M. (2009, May 2). Child Beauty Pageants: What are we teaching our girls? Psychology Today. Retrieved from[->1].

Chin, S. (2009 May 1) “Beauty & the Boob Tube” The Advocate (The National Gay & Lesbian Newsmagazine) Retrieved from[->2] Gallard, A., Albritton, F., Morgan, M. (2010, fall) A comprehensive cost/benefit model: developmental student success impact, Journal of Developmental Education. Vol.34. Issue 1, 10-25

Levey, H. (2010 June 8) The whys and woes of beauty pageants. Harvard Gazette Retrieved from Nelson,J., Gelfand, D., Hartmann, D. (1969 Dec) Children’s aggression following competition an exposure to an aggressive model. Child Development Vol.40 Issue 4

Nussbaum, K. (2012, Aug 21) Children and beauty pageants Web 21 Retrieved from[->3] Sandberg, E. (2011 July 22) Toddlers, Tiaras—and Debt: The cost of child beauty pageants. Credit Retrieved from[->4] Striegel-Moore,R., Kearney-Cooke, A. (1994 May) Exploring parents attitudes and behaviors about their children’s physical appearance. International Journal of Eating Disorders. 377-385

Wonderlich, A., Ackard, D., Henderson, J. (2005 May-June 21) Childhood beauty pageant contestants: Associations with adult disordered eating and mental health. Retrieve from[->5] Your Dictionary. Np., n.d., (2012 Aug 21) Retrieved from

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