The pressure to purchase girl’s clothing is a real thing and it’s one of the reasons why many girls don’t buy them, a new study finds.
The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, examined the psychology of buying girl’s fashion in a way that could benefit girls who are struggling with body image and self-esteem issues.
Researchers looked at a random sample of 6,400 girls aged 9 to 16, from the United States, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom.
“These girls are in school and in school they’re still trying to figure out what their identity is and how to express it,” said lead author Dr. Lisa Stemmer, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University.
“They are struggling to decide whether they want to be a girl or a boy and they’re struggling with how to present themselves and express themselves in school.”
Stemmer and her colleagues analyzed the responses of the girls in the study to three sets of questions: how much pressure to push to wear certain clothes, whether or not they would like to be labeled a girl, and whether or to what extent they wanted to buy a particular item.
“They are just trying to be authentic in a sense,” said Stemman.
“It’s not really about buying a girl’s body.
They’re trying to fit in with the girls at school and they don’t want to do that by going to a store that’s kind of different than their current experience.”
For the girls, Stemer said they found the answers more complicated than they thought.
“We really don’t have a clear answer to this question,” she said.
“What does it mean for a girl to be called a girl?
Does it mean she’s not a girl anymore?
And is it a good thing or bad thing for a child to be referred to as a girl?”
While the answers varied across the countries, Stenmer said the findings were similar for girls in different parts of the world.
The girls in France and the Netherlands were more likely than the girls from Germany and Spain to say they wanted girls’ clothes to be less restrictive and more comfortable, but not to say that they wanted them to buy them.
“It really shows that the girls who live in the Netherlands are the most confident and self aware and are also the most comfortable in the sense that they are really happy with their body,” said Dr. Michael Hulbert, a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved in the research.
Hulbert noted that in other studies of girls’ clothing, people in the United Nations have found that the clothing companies are more interested in promoting positive images of girls than they are in promoting the clothing for girls.
“I think this study shows the extent to which these women really feel like their clothes should be the opposite of what’s considered normal,” he said.
Stember, who is also a member of the U.N. World Health Organization, said she hopes that the results of the study can be helpful to girls everywhere who struggle with body and self image issues.
“If you can find a way to be comfortable in a dress that is more fitting and you can feel confident that your body is beautiful and you are good looking, that might be the difference between not buying girls’ fashion and not buying clothes for girls,” she explained.