Too old, too soon

A study by researchers at Flinders University has found that young girls are growing up too quickly and may be in danger of falling victim to the ‘Lolita effect’.

Of the 815 mothers surveyed, around 50 per cent reported that their daughters, some as young as four, asked them how they looked and two-thirds were generally critical of their appearance in mirrors. And by the age of eight, one in 10 are wearing padded bras and 24 per cent are talking about boys in a romantic nature.

The research, overseen by Marika Tiggemann and Amy Slater, also found that, worryingly, parents need to be concerned with more than just girls looking older. The findings of the study, published in the Body Image journal, stated that “somewhat grown-up or sexualised appearance” may face attention from older children or adults that they “neither want nor know how to respond to”. Girls who read magazines or watch movies and music videos which are essentially too mature for them “do not fully understand or evaluate sufficiently critically”, the content featured in such.

“It is as if contemporary girls are in a great hurry to grow up, a phenomenon that has been dubbed the Lolita ­effect,” they say.

In conclusion, the study stated there was a “strong indicator that young girls are growing up too quickly, in that they are taking on what were once considered the concerns of older ­adolescent girls”.

 “There can be no doubt that mothers see raising girls in the contemporary world as ‘very challenging’,” they said.


Read more at Body Image

Opinion: Just say “no”

Being the mother of a son, I consider myself fortunate not to have to deal with the ever-growing number of issues confronting mothers of young girls. But surely saying no isn’t so difficult?

A study into how young girls are being influenced by media which is simply too mature for them makes worrying reading, but perhaps not for the reasons you may think. Girls have always wanted to be older than they are in years. I can remember sneaking copies of Jackie magazine when I was too young to fully understand what was in them and being influenced by the latest fashions. But these days it seems that such urges to be all grown-up and attractive to others are kicking in at an even younger age.

I have been in shopping centres where girls as young as four or five are sporting lip gloss, styled hair and clothes which are simply smaller versions of teenage high street fashion. There are even salons specifically for girls as young as four and five to go and have ‘beauty parties’, where manicures, pedicures and wearing make-up are encouraged. And while dressing up in mum’s clothes and high-heeled shoes has always been a rite of passage for many young girls, the wearing of mini-versions styled specifically for toddlers has become commonplace.

However, it is perhaps the response of parents to this study which I find most worrying. Many of the mothers who responded to the survey said they were “very concerned” how their daughters are “encouraged to grow up before they are ready”. Yet these are the very same mothers who are allowing their children to wear provocative clothes, mini make-up and consuming media material which simply isn’t suitable.

And while it’s understandable that the trend is perhaps more concerning in young girls, let us not underestimate the effect it also has on young boys, for they too are being forced to grow up to quickly. With the latest rap stars and bad-boy sports personalities as role models, the ideals of young males are also skewed by outside forces.

Perhaps it’s time for parents to stick together and return to ensuring that their young children aren’t exposed to un-age-appropriate media and when they ask for something too ‘old’ for them, simply to say “no”.

Do you think parents should take more responsibility for the influences their children face when growing up? Or are there too many other factors influences undermining parental guidance of young children? Do you have grandchildren who behave and look too old for their age? If so, does this cause issues within the family?

Written by Debbie McTaggart