Children's beauty pageants began in the 1960s. Since then, they have gained staggering popularity in the United States, earning an ever-growing multimillion-dollar profit. Pageant parents feel the contests instill leadership, confidence and intelligence in their young girls. Some parents also say it teaches their children early about winning and losing in life. Anti-pageant psychologists and parents, however, do not think children should set foot in such competitions because of the negative aspects of doing so.
In pageants, children wear makeup and glamorous, "sexy" clothing to flirt their way into the audience's and judges' favor. Beauty is often equated to a person's ability to attract a partner. Children thinking about the way their beauty attracts people too early could lead to negative mental and physical health. A child exposed to sexualization might feel "a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics," according to the American Psychological Association.
Beauty and Status
Winning awards based on beauty could also cause a child to develop a warped view of her status in the world. Parents and the media contribute to the ideal of beauty being a way to receive the things a person wants in life: money, partner, career, education. In essence, winning a beauty contest puts a person on a higher pedestal than others. Children might look down on ugly people who they feel might be less inclined to succeed because of their undesirable looks. A child who does not win the beauty pageant might feel unattractive and inferior to winners, resulting in low self-esteem and depression.
Loss of Childhood
Pageants take a child and parent's time and money. Obsessive parents might enroll their children in so many pageants that the child has no time for regular kid activities and play time. Children, too, might become so mentally engaged with the contests that they no longer want to take part in other activities. A healthy child must balance fun, education and responsibility. Local pageants do not expend as much time as regional or national pageants. Parents must be aware of the mental and physical stress traveling can cause their younger children.
Children attached to pageant life might lose the communication and social skills necessary to operate outside of them. Children might also begin to suffer from stress and eating disorders related to maintaining beauty. Disorders like anorexia, bulimia and obsessive compulsive disorder are common among children and teens. The sexualization, status and stress could cause serious depression and immobility in more susceptible teens.