The pretty project : exploring the mechanisms through which girls learn about prettiness from their mothers
In our society girls often learn that one’s appearance is valued and that they should strive for unrealistic body standards. The current study examined the ways in which mothers’ self-views and socialization strategies are related to their young daughters’ views of prettiness. Data was collected from 25 mother-daughter dyads; daughters were between three and six years old. Utilizing gender schema theory and Bandura’s social learning theory, we proposed three mechanisms through which mothers may teach their daughters about prettiness: direct instruction, observational learning, and the provision of opportunities. Results indicate that mothers’ self-views are not related to the importance daughters place on appearance. Mothers in this study talked little about their own appearance in front of their daughters, attempted to highlight the importance of valuing one’s body for more than appearance, and preferred providing gender atypical opportunities. However, daughters still demonstrated a preference for prettiness. These results indicate that while daughters may not be learning to value prettiness from their mothers, the message that one’s appearance matters is pervasive, and may be reaching daughters from different sources.
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