The paper I chose to do relates to body image and well-being in a genuine way. It relates to the young girls in our society that have to deal with the media in their everyday lives. The demonstrates how the media can impact a young girl into feeling self-conscious about herself and cause damage by changing the way she thinks about her own developing body.
I, personally, became interested in this topic when I was reading an article about the effects of the media on young girls. The article definitely had an impact on me because I went through the battle with growing up and the infinite messages that the media sends to you every minute of everyday, no matter what you are doing, telling you whether you are too fat, too tall, what is pretty, what's not pretty, etc. Is it right to be sending out these infinite messages to our young? I think that it makes them grow up extremely fast and that they have no time to just be kids.
While doing research on this topic, I found numerous articles discussing children's toys, books and television shows, among other things, that teach our children that only skinny is beautiful, like in many Disney movies including Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and Snow White. Barbie dolls also have this effect on our children. Have you ever noticed that evil characters or "the bad guys" in movies are almost always depicted as ugly, overweight people? It's time to take a look at what we are teaching our children and where they learn flawed body image ideals from.
It is thought that children pick up on their parent's habits and mind-set on different subjects at a very young age (Littleton and Ollendick, 2003, p. 52.) As it is a compelling topic, I will study where young girls pick up views and ideas about weight and looks. I will take into consideration that the media, family, friends and other relatives may also have some contribution as to what the child takes in and learns.
I think that doing research in regards to where young girls learn their harmful habits is worth studying because it is important to look carefully at what the next generation is learning in relation to body image and well-being. The children of today are important. They are the ones that will be running society in the very near future. They will be the ones taking care of our generation and they will decide who is an appropriate role model for their children. They will also pass down a lot of what they learned as children, good or bad, in regards to body image and well-being. Is it necessary for our children to go through the struggles with weight preoccupation and eating disorders like many people in today's society? By educating ourselves on this topic, maybe we can put some of these problems to rest.
I am examining the topic of young girls and their body image and well-being by investigating aspects of the different sources that young girls may learn this disturbing behavior from. The underlying sources that I am exploring include early puberty, societies pressures to be thin, children's cartoon movies, television, and children's toys.
There are many opinions on the subject of children picking up on bad habits and mind-sets on different subjects at a very young age. In fact, there was a study done that examined the body shape preferences of young children in the United States, Mainland China and Turkey (Davidson, Welborn Thill and Lash, 2002, p.131). The study determined that the children from different places did not necessarily prefer the slim body image, but that they preferred what the people from their area preferred. For example, the young girls from the Middle East favored larger sized women, while the young children from China didn't even believe that extremely overweight people existed (Davidson, Welborn Thill and Lash, 2002, p.132). The children from the United States ranked being slim as their top choice (Davidson, Welborn Thill and Lash, 2002, p.133). If you think about it, the children of the Middle East do not necessarily have the same amount of freedom as to which foods they can or cannot eat. In fact, they don't always have enough to eat. Perhaps that is why they prefer the bigger model compared to a slim one. Maybe they think that the more obese model has enough food and doesn't have to worry about where their next meal comes from.
In the paper, "Pubertal development and sedentary behavior during adolescence" (Murdey et al., 2004, p. 75-86), a study that looked at the affects of the amount of time a child sleeps compared to their behavior throughout the day (Murdey et al., 2004, p. 75-86). The study confirmed that the students that got less sleep had more habits of inactive behavior. Perhaps the reason for the inactive behavior comes from parents who do not set guidelines for their children to have certain sleeping times. Another study was done to see what the age was that young girls had a desire for thinness in the British Journal of Health Psychology from May 2003. They concluded that the age in young girls was approximately age 6 (Lowes and Tiggemann, 2003, p. 135). What does that mean in our society? Why is it that there is a 6-year-old girl trying to conform to a slim body image? That is literally disgusting to me. Where do these children get these ideas to become thinner?
Movies, television and children's toys are all sources of subliminal messages that the media sends out to our children today. In children's movies and television for example, most women are shown especially thin. This is true in almost all Disney movies. Cinderella, Snow White and Beauty and the Beast are good examples of the slim body image the company is selling out to the young girls. The only movies that I can think of whose main characters were not slim (at least for most of the movie) were Shrek and Shrek 2. Why are Disney and other television companies plaguing every aspect of our children's lives with these subliminal messages?
One study of Saturday morning toy commercials found that 50% of commercials aimed at girls spoke about physical attractiveness, while none of the commercials aimed at boys referred to appearance (Dittrich, 2000). Another study found 50% of advertisements in teen girl magazines and 56% of television commercials aimed at female viewers used beauty as a product appeal (Woznicki, 1999).
Another issue is the matter of children's toys. Toys such as the famous Barbie Doll make girls and women feel as if they have to try to somehow attain her certain body type. Not only would she be 7'2" tall, but also she'd boast an impressive 40" bust line, a tiny 22" waist, and 36" hips. In addition to these absurd, and physiologically impossible statistics, her neck would be twice the length of a normal human being (Fein, 1995, p.152). On top of that, Barbie would not have enough room in her tiny waistline to have full sized organs, nor would she be able to menstruate. Due to her proportions, she would have to walk on all fours because her body would not be able to adequately support her (Fein, 1995, p.153). Barbie's perfect figure and other media driven advertisements make some girls feel unhappy with their bodies. Barbie's body type is unattainable and impossible for literally every girl out there to attain. What happened to Mattell, the company that markets and produces the Barbie Doll, trying to change Barbie's body due to pressure from today's society? The doll that they introduced with the regular body type did terrible in the market because the demand for a Barbie with a regular body type was much less. Is that because the children already had the perfection-type in their heads as ideal?
I agree with the material I read on the subject because it was very realistic. It enlightened me concerning the profound negative impact that toys, movie and advertisements can have on young girls. I think that the material that I reviewed supports my beliefs that much of what we think about our bodies is learned through the media while we are growing up.
I focused on the feminist theory for my study. The Feminist Perspective is defined as
The belief that women and men are, and have been, treated differently by our society, and that women have frequently and systematically been unable to participate fully in all social arenas and institutions. A desire to change that situation. That this gives a "new" point-of-view on society, when eliminating old assumptions about why things are the way they are, and looking at it from the perspective that women are not inferior and men are not "the norm" 
I used the feminist perspective as my sociological theory for my research paper. I used this theory because I believe that women are treated a great deal inconsistently to men, especially while growing up. Men and women grow up in almost two different worlds. In these different worlds, it is acceptable for girls to cry, but boys cannot because it shows that they aren't strong. Society and the media inform children of both sexes what they should look like, how they should act, and even what they should wear. They are told what toys to play with, and how they should look, body wise. The feminist perspective is a beneficial perspective to analyze this issue because it helped me analyze the topic thoroughly. It helps you see both sides of the issue.
I think that we need to start treating children differently in our modern society. We need to stop classifying children in their separate gender roles and start treating them with respect to who they are, not the sex that they are born into.
It is thought that children pick up on their parent's habits and mind-set on different subjects at a very young age (Littleton and Ollendick, 2003, p. 52.) Young girls pick up on their body image and how they should look as young as the age of 6 (Lowes and Tiggemann, 2003). I considered that the media, family, friends, and other relatives may also have some contribution as to what the child takes in and learns, but after researching, I found that parents and relatives do not have as much input as I previously thought on the subject of body image and well-being.
I examined the topic of young girls and their body image and well-being by investigating all aspects of the different sources that young girls may learn in disturbing behavior from. The main underlying sources that I looked at included societies pressures to be thin, sleeping behaviors, children's cartoon movies, television, and children's toys. I found that all of the pressures to be thin from society had some sort of impact on children in today's society. Is it necessary to go through the struggles with weight preoccupation and eating disorders like many other people in today's society? I don not think that we should be forcing children into dealing with these life-long problems when they are not equipped to do so in body and their undeveloped minds. They do not always know what is good and what is bad for themselves. Again we have to remember that the children of today are very important. They are the ones that will be running society in the very near future. They will be the ones taking care of our generation and they will be the ones to decide who the appropriate role models for their children will be. They will also pass down a lot of what they learned as children, good or bad, in regards to body image and well-being. The question is, should we be teaching them to be consequently aware that thin is beautiful? I think we need to teach the children of tomorrow, and today for that matter, that what matters is what is on the inside. They need to now that being thin will not make you feel instantly happy. After all, it's how you feel about yourself that counts.
Davidson, Denise., Welborn Thill, Azure Dee., Lash, Denise. (2002). Male and Female body shape preferences of young children in the United States, Mainland China, and Turkey. [Electronic version]. Child Study Journal, Vol. 32 Issue 3, p131, 13p.
Dittrich, L. (2000). About-Face facts on the MEDIA. About-Face web site. Online: http://aboutface.org/resources/facts/media.html.
McLellan, Faith. (2002). Marketing and advertising: harmful to children's health. [Electronic version]. Lancet, Vol. 360 Issue 9338, p1001, 1p, 1c.
Piran, Niva. (2004). Teachers: On "Being" (Rather than "Doing") Prevention. [Electronic version]. Eating Disorders, Vol. 12 Issue 1, p1-9, 9p.
Woznicki, K. (1999). Pop Culture Hurts Body Image. On Health web site. Online: http://www.onhealth.com/ch1/briefs/item,55572.asp.
Fein, G. G. (1995). Toys and stories: In A. D. Pellegrini (Ed.), The future of play theory (pp. 151-165). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.