What Science Says About Girls Growing Up Too Fast

By Dannah Gresh

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by Dannah Gresh, founder of True Girl

Did you know that when Marilyn Monroe’s image was being used to peddle fashion, she was approximately thirty years old? And the products she was selling were for adult women. Ever-so-slowly the fashion and beauty industry recognized that to increase market share it needed to target younger and younger customers. And now, seven-year-old girls are pressured to dress like they’re seventeen. Is that OK?

After two years of study by an American Psychological(APA) task force on the sexualization of little girls, we have clear evidence that a mother shouldn’t let her tween daughter wear clothes that are more appropriate for older girls. The APA task force’s report states that lyrics, internet content, video games, and clothing are now being marketed to younger and younger girls. The sexual content of the marketing and the products themselves—while creating no apparent immediate effect—is clearly linked to eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression when these girls become teenagers.


This solid research does not seem to stop the beauty battles from waging on. While networks hosting the Grammy’s issue a modesty code for celebs attending, Christian bloggers have decried biblical teaching on modesty. Has the world been turned upside down?

Let’s admit this: many times when the Church addresses modesty, it’s from a heart of rule-based living. “Your skirt should be two inches below the knee.” “Your shorts need to come to the tips of your fingers.” “A Christian woman should never wear pants.”  Making these biblical mandates and overly obsessing about the female body is both objectifying and shame-based. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a healthy conversation about what’s appropriate for public showcasing of our feminine beauty. Failure to do so places our daughters in risky positions to fight beauty battles they shouldn’t have to, including anorexia, bulimia, and unhealthy dieting.

It is the wise mother who looks past both the world’s free-for-all with fashion and the Church’s allergic reaction to it, to find a holistic approach to how her daughter presents herself.


You and your daughter are worthy of honor and respect. With precision, our Creator knit each of you together. (Psalm 139:14) That makes you incredible masterpieces created by God. (Ephesians 2:10) You are worth every glance that appreciates your beauty and equally deserve being set apart in the way you choose to present yourself.

A wise mother refuses to succumb to the world’s pressure to live without modest consideration nor does she kowtow to the clamor of legalists within the Church. Both objectify girls and women who are worthy of respect.

Rather than getting out a measuring stick to conform external beauty to a specific standard, seek to present your daughter with biblical Truth and thought-provoking questions that empower her to search her heart when she’s deciding how to present herself. After all, man looks at the outward appearance, but what God really cares about is the heart. (I Samuel 16:7). Yes, our outward appearance is an expression of our hearts and does matter. But if that’s the case, shouldn’t we start with the heart rather the length of her skirt?

True Girl Live events and resources including our True Beauty Devo Kit exist to help a mom have intentional conversations and interactions with her tween girl so she’ll know just how precious she is and how to dress with dignity! Our approach to dressing with dignity emphasizes our heart’s involvement.

My past twenty years of studying at-risk teen and tween behavior has over and over again led me to good news: girls who are exposed to an age-appro­priate, Bible-based understanding of beauty and fashion between the ages of 8-12 tend to be less likely to engage in early sexual activity or have body image issues. They are also more likely to have healthy friendships, excel academically, and become positive social contributors in their com­munities, all while expressing their beauty and value appropriately.

It’s not rocket science. It is social science paired with a whole lot of prayer and Bible study. We can change what tween girls see when they look in the mirror by changing what’s inside their hearts.

Our True Girl theme verse:

"So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31,32

Mom, the best way to teach your daughter to live like an authentic True Girl is to live like an authentic True Woman. And to do that, you've got to get your life lined up with the Truth of the Bible. Listen to Dannah Gresh every weekday on Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth's Revive Our Hearts podcast. The program features biblical teaching, interviews that offer godly advice, and other opportunities to abide in God's Word.




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