APA has long been involved in issues related to the impact of media content on children.
In 1994, APA adopted a policy resolution on Violence in Mass Media, which updated and expanded an earlier resolution on televised violence.
The APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls was tasked with examining the psychological theory, research and clinical experience addressing the sexualization of girls via media and other cultural messages, including the prevalence of these messages and their impact on girls and the role and impact of race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status.
The task force was charged with producing a report, including recommendations for research, practice, education and training, policy and public awareness.
In study after study, findings have indicated that women more often than men are portrayed in a sexual manner (e.g., dressed in revealing clothing, with bodily postures or facial expressions that imply sexual readiness) and are objectified (e.g., used as a decorative object, or as body parts rather than a whole person).
Societal messages that contribute to the sexualization of girls come not only from media and merchandise but also through girls’ interpersonal relationships (e.g., with parents, teachers, and peers; Brown & Gilligan, 1992).But when children are imbued with adult sexuality, it is often imposed upon them rather than chosen by them.Self-motivated sexual exploration, on the other hand, is not sexualization by our definition, nor is age-appropriate exposure to information about sexuality.Journalists, child advocacy organizations, parents and psychologists have argued that the sexualization of girls is a broad and increasing problem and is harmful to girls.
The APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls was formed in response to these expressions of public concern.Parents may contribute to sexualization in a number of ways.