Leading child psychologist and Generation Next speaker Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, has taken a stand and thrown down the gauntlet to Bonds in response to their soft cup bra for 8 year olds which has just hit the shops.

“I call on the company to withdraw the product and if they don’t, urge all parents to boycott them.  I’m so disappointed a company like Bonds would do this after the Best and Less example” he said.

Dr Michael Carr-Gregg said the bra, which is mildly padded in a child’s size eight, was an example of the “adultification of children”.

“It blurs the line between what is a little girl and what is a woman, and in doing so violates an important societal norm that states that children should not be seen as sexual objects,” Dr Carr-Gregg said.

He is not alone in his call to arms against the sexualisation of children and is joined by many leading experts in the field including clinical psychologist Amanda Gordon, Generation Next speaker and Sexualisation expert Maggie Hamilton and the parent lobby group Kids Free 2BKids.

Maggie Hamilton warned that “Tweens wear sexy clothing because companies encourage them to believe this will help them take their place in the world… Companies know how much tweens want to be teenagers and use this to sell the products teen girls enjoy – make up, music and fashions. However with teen products come teen aspirations”.

Amanda Gordon, who authored the Australian Psychological Society’s submission to the 2008 inquiry, accused Bonds of cashing in on the sexualisation of children.

“They see this as where the dollars are and I’m saying: shame, take more responsibility for our little girls because when it’s Bonds, it says it’s reasonable and normal and it’s not,” Ms Gordon said.

However, there are also those who believe that there is a need for this kind of garment, with recent studies finding that some girls are reaching puberty before their teenage years.

One such study published in the journal Public Health Nutrition found a link between high meat consumption and early puberty in girls. Another study in Denmark found that the average breast development was at 9 years and 10 months old.

Anders Juul, head of the Department of Growth and Reproduction at the University hospital in Copenhagen, a world leader in the study of hormones and growth said “if girls mature early, they run into teenage problems at an early age and they’re more prone to diseases later on”.

His concern was not that girls were developing earlier but rather he was concerned about the adult world this exposed them to at such an early age. “We should be worried about this regardless of what we think the underlying reasons might be. It’s a clear sign that something is affecting our children, whether it’s junk food, environmental chemicals or lack of physical activity.”

The worry then is not that 8 year old girls need a soft padded bra, but rather how the bra is marketed to them. For some it is a necessary development, for others it is seen merely as a fashion accessory.

For many girls it is the ” tweens” answer to becoming an instant “teenager” allowing them to emulate the idols that are presented to them by the media, such as Miley Cyrus who has taken to wearing clothing way beyond her years. It is a quick way to look and act older.

The 2008 Senate Inquiry into the Sexualisation of Children in the Contemporary Media Environment heard convincing evidence that a generation of young people were being harmed by this growing trend.

The more recent report by psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos “The Sexualisation of Young People” confirmed that “By over-emphasising their sexuality through fashion, it may make it harder for girls to value themselves for other aspects of their identity”.

Bonds insists that the product line “was driven by consumer needs”.  General Manager Kate Hann argued that girls were maturing earlier and needed a bra to suit their age and development.

“Typically, the first change a girl will notice is what is known as budding of the breast area. Our research indicates girls at this stage are looking for light support and concealment of developing breasts/nipples,” she said.

A convincing argument against the Bonds bra has to be the comments by Clive Hamilton, former head of the Australia who published the 2007 report Corporate Pedophilia, he said the bra would only serve to make a young girl look older.

“It is designed to make an eight-year-old look as though she has budding breasts,” Mr Hamilton said. “In our research, paedophiles told us that the presentation of eight-year olds in bras justified their activities.”

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha
Source: The Sunday Mail (QLD)