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Child Beauty Pageants Rush Children Into Adulthood

Makenzie, a beauty pageant contestant featured on TLC's Toddlers and Tiaras. Photo courtesy of TLC.

What is wrong with child beauty pageants?

Vernon Wiehe, DSW, professor emeritus at the University of Kentucky College of Social Work, wrote about  why he dislikes such pagents in a critique of the TLC program “Toddlers & Tiaras” in this column in

Wiehe, who is an expert on family relationships and family violence, said the pageants are not simple dress up games for children and in fact sexualize children. It is also obvious from watching Toddlers & Tiaras that some children do not like participating and are forced to do so by parents.

“The sexualization of young children sends a conflicting message to the child and a dangerous message to adults,” Wiehe said. “To the child, a message is given that sexuality — expressed in clothing, makeup and certain postures — is appropriate and even something to exploit.”

To find out more about how social workers help young children overcome life’s hurdles, visit the National Association of Social Workers’ Help Starts Here Kids & Families Web page by clicking here.

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  1. IF! There should be such an event than it should be based on the children NOT the “extras” like the teeth, eye lashes, makeup and all of that other misleading, gender conformity, stereotypical, potentially emotionally damaging paraphernalia.

  2. I just read this article and wonder what in the world the parents of these little girls are thinking when they dress their children up in adult make-up, eyelashes, hair dye, extensions, and provocative adult clothing.
    As a child advocate we recognize that girls who are sexualized can be early targets of abuse. These pageants are poor excuses for establishing anything positive in a child’s life. Even cash awards may not actually be used for the child unless it is a law in that state.
    In my opinion there is nothing positive about a child being involved in a pageant such as Toddlers and Tiaras.

  3. I do not like the sexualization of children in any way, shape, or form. It certainly sends the wrong message to the children and is provocative to pedophiles. I have worked with them as a clinician and they find Sears Roebuck ads for children’s clothing suggestive and provocative.

    It is unhealthy for society all the way around. As far as the child beauty pageant industry goes I assume that it is a constitutionally protected form of free speech and self-expression. Unless the children are performing sexually explicit acts or indecently clad I doubt anything could or should be done about it as I value our first amendment freedoms, unlike some liberals.

  4. I feel child pagaents are a glorified form of prostitution…. it also gives the girls a warped sense of identity making them feel there worth is based on how they look…. I don’t know why any parent would want to put their child through that.

  5. Sadly we aren’t commenting on the fact that is is these children’s parents, most often mothers, who are sexualizing their children, most likely for vicarious satisfaction. Is anyone investigating these parents for their pathological parenting? The most recent complaints are of a parent who dressed her child in a padded bra and bottom. These parents teach their children to behave sexually on stage and for the camera & judges.

    I wonder if anyone has done any longtitudinal research on the outcomes for these children of having their innocence and childhoods robbed by what are likely narcissistic parents who teach their children to be sexual to meet the parents needs.

    I’ve worked with sex offenders across age ranges and this sexualization of children is getting totally out of control. Here is an example of the damage being done. Since when did it become acceptable for adults to make children into sexual objects and why isn’t our profession protesting about it? If a parent took pictures of a child like this Vogue photographer did they would be investigated for child sexual abuse and exploitation and possibly child pornography. Why is it okay for Vogue to do it & make money off a child’s innocence?

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