Better ways to raise girls' self-esteem

An emphasis on appearance should not be used to raise girls' self-esteem. This is the suggestion of new research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, which looked at the motivations behind parents entering their daughters into beauty pageants.

Martina Cartwright, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Arizona, led the study and claimed participation in such events could harm a young girl's self-esteem and often has more to do with satisfying the needs of mums and dads than helping the kids.

Ms Cartwright said it is important youngsters are taught that feeling good about themselves should not be solely dependent on how attractive they are.

"We need to talk to adults and to kids about other ways to garner self-esteem than through appearance," she added.

The study suggested parents often enter their children into such contests to experience 'achievement by proxy', where they take joy and pride from their kids' participation but also note their limitations.

Chartered Psychologist Dr Angharad Rudkin comments:

"This study highlights the importance of understanding the complexity of self-esteem in children. We need to pay attention to all facets of children's lives and what opportunities they have to feel good about themselves. This study also draws attention to the common issue of whether children are getting their own or their parents' needs met by being involved in events such as beauty pageants."