Sexualization in U.S. Latina and White Girls’ Preferred
Children’s Television Programs
Published online: 14 November 2016
Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016
Abstract Sexualization is associated with negative mental
and physical health consequences for girls. Media exposure,
particularly television (TV), is a pervasive source of sexualiz-
ing messages yet little work has quantified sexualization in
children’s media, particularly in media popular with minority
youth. The current research examines the prevalence of
sexualization in children’s TV programs popular among U.S.
Latina and White girls aged 6 to 11 through a quantitative
content analysis of 32 episodes from the ten most popular
children’s TV series. Results indicated that sexualization was
present in every coded episode, with at least three instances
present per episode, and a combined total of 770 instances
across all episodes. Female characters were more commonly
portrayed in a sexualized manner than were male characters
and were sexualized in 72 % of instances. Characters of color
were generally sexualized at the same rate as White characters.
Although sexualized clothing was the most common form of
sexualization in the children’s programs, a broad range of
sexualizing content was present. Instances of sexualization
included sexualizing comments, body exposure, self-
sexualizing physical behaviors and activities, sexualizing
physical behaviors toward others, verbal and physical
objectification, and body/appearance modification. These
findings suggest that sexualization is present in children’sme-
dia popular among both Latina and White girls and that iden-
tifying means to counter this influence should be a priority.
Keywords Content analysis
Evidence shows that sexualization is associated with signifi-
cant negative consequences for girls including mental health
disorders, low self-esteem, body image issues, and impaired
cognitive performance (American Psychological Association
[APA] Task Force Report on the Sexualization of Girls 2007).
Exposure to sexualizing media in particular has been found to
predict intercourse initiation (Martino et al. 2006) and dating
violence victimization (Raiford et al. 2007) in young women
and it is associated with greater acceptance of dating violence
and sexual harassment among youth and adults (APA 2007).
Sexualization occurs when a person’s value or worth is pri-
marily linked to his or her sexual appeal, sexuality is inappro-
priately imposed upon a person, a person is sexually objecti-
fied, or a person is held to narrow standards of beauty that
equate attractiveness with sexiness (APA 2007).
The sexualization of girls and women occurs on multiple
levels, including through interpersonal interactions and dom-
inant popular culture often shared via media. Media with sex-
ualizing content is perhaps the most pervasive source of
sexualization in the United States and includes television
(TV) programs, music videos, music lyrics, movies, maga-
zines, video games, and the internet, among others (APA
2007). Latinas (and other women of color) are more common-
ly portrayed in a sexualized manner in popular media than are
White women (Lacroix 2004; Rivadeneyra and Ward 2005).
The extent of sexualizing content within mainstream media is
* Elizabeth McDade-Montez
ETR Associates, 100 Enterprise Way Suite G300, Scotts
Val ley, CA 9 5066, U S A
Psychological Sciences Program, University of California, 5200 N.
Lake Road, Merced, CA 95340, USA
Sex Roles (2017) 77:1–15