Washington, October 27 (ANI): The high-glitz child pageants often have little to do with the children and much more to do with satisfying the needs of their parents, a new study has suggested.
Researchers have warned that participation in such pageants can actually be harmful to children's health and self-esteem.
Martina M. Cartwright, a registered dietician and adjunct professor in the University of Arizona's department of nutritional sciences, asserts that some pageant parents exhibit what she calls "princess by proxy," a unique form of "achievement by proxy distortion" in which adults are driven primarily by the social or financial gains earned by their child's accomplishments, regardless of risk involved for the child.
She said she has witnessed parents putting high pressure on their young daughters to look "flawless" and win at all costs, pushing them to adopt an unnatural and adult-like physical appearance and chastising them for poor performance, lack of enthusiasm or a flawed appearance.
"Everything was based on what these kids look like and the way that these children were displayed or dressed," Cartwright said. "They were fully made up; they looked like adult women, pint-size. They were judged on personality, but none spoke a word."
The emphasis on physical perfection may put young girls at risk for adult body dissatisfaction, and potentially eating disorders, Cartwright said.
She said she also worries that the competitions sexualize young girls by encouraging them to look like grown-ups.
Cartwright is additionally concerned about the physical health of young pageant participants.
At the pageants she observed, where contestants ranged in age from 4 months to 15 years, she said tears and temper tantrums were common, with many parents denying their children naps or breaks during grueling pageant schedules for fear that sleeping might dishevel the child's appearance.
She also saw several parents giving their children caffeinated beverages and Pixy Stix candy, often referred to as "pageant crack," to keep their energy levels high.
Although Cartwright doesn't advocate an outright ban on child pageants, she said she thinks it's important for people to understand the motivation for some parents to enter their children in the competitions.
The study was recently published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. (ANI)