Child Model

Why is it normal to have children modeling clothing for adult women?

This is prevalent in today’s fashion magazines and as been for decades. Has this been going on so long that we just don’t question it? Or we just don’t bother because “its not going to change?

Well, it’s unacceptable. Parading children up and down runways, and in full page spreads in magazines and newspapers, all to sucker women into spending their money on clothes they don’t need is…well sad, pathethic…and it works.

Take it from me, I was one of them. 

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40 Responses to Child Model

  1. Vanessa says:

    i think it’s stretching a point to call teenage girls “children”. in many cultures 16 year olds are certainly old enough to be married and start having children of their own. they’ve reached sexual maturity (although of course anorexic models may not have enough body fat to have done so). certainly we dont have enough acknowledgement that womens bodies naturally change as they mature. but while i agree that models bodies arent representative of normal human women’s bodies i’m gonna go ahead and take issue with your calling teenagers “children”.

    i know its a blog thing but you seem quite big on exaggerating and oversimplifying to make your points, yeah?

  2. Karen says:

    Hi Vanessa,

    I just wanted to point out that in many other cultures where girls are 16 and have families, well thats not the western culture. We are raised very different in the western world. We are raised to rely on our parents until we are done highschool (17 or 18 years old). If someone under the age of 20 has a baby, that is considered unusal and young. When you examine issues of having 16 year olds, model for a target audience of 30-50 year olds, then there is a problem with that! A 16 year old has a very different body then a 30-50 year old women.

    I’ve been to and experienced other cultures. For example in Vietnam, I was often question about how many childern I had and when I got married. Well, I’m 21….not married, no kids!! And people that asked me these questions were so confused why I wasn’t married yet and why I didn’t want to get married at this time. Well, we have different values, opportunities and social norms. I want to finish university, have a well established job and be in an excellent relationship. I don’t think it is really fair to compare a 16 year old in another culture against a 16 year old of another culuture.

  3. wanderer says:

    Karen basically said what I was thinking regarding who is considered a “child” and it’s true, in Western society childhood and adolescence are extended beyond the age of what other societies consider adulthood.

    Recognizing the need to protect the young formally and legally began in the late 19th century when progressives in the US and UK campaigned to create social welfare programs and child labor laws. And that was a good thing! We realized that it was wise and humane to let young people get an education and have some fun in their lives because the adult pressures in marriage, parenting, and working come soon enough. After watching the outtake from Project Runway on fainting models–and the judges laughing at them– I wonder just how humanely the teen models are treated.

    Also, some time ago, I read an article in the Wall Street Journal explaining how modeling agencies now recruit teen women from the former Soviet countries. Why? Because they’re “hungry looking” due to the impoverished circumstances in these countries after the collapse of the USSR. And coming from those impoverished and struggling economic conditions, it makes sense that the young women would want to go into a profession where they could make money, be glamorous, and support their families. And the modeling agencies offer that to them.

  4. Vanessa says:

    i’m sorry if i confused you, but i simply meant to make a distinction between the word “child” and a 16 year old. i’m certainly not in favor of repealing child labor laws or having western society emulate cultures in which teenage girls get married. but there is still a huge difference between a childs body and that of a 16 year old. granted there is also a difference between a 16 year old and a 30-50 year old, but in my opinion the mental and physical difference between, say, a 6 year old child and a teenager is larger than the difference between a 16 year old and an adult. thats not to say that 16 year olds dont still have some physical and mental maturing to do.

  5. Sass1948 says:

    Vanessa, most intelligent adults consider 16 yr olds as children. I feel your comment above is pedantic. Of course, teenagers are not children, this is blatant. However, young adults/teenagers are generally not yet emotionally equipped to make adult decisions, therefore it s important for adults to protect them & ensure they are not exploited. Thanks for reading! x

  6. Synj says:


    I’ve been reading your site for a few months now, but this is the first time i’ve felt very compelled to answer. I am an anthropologist with a specialty on extinct hunter-gatherer cultures, and I must say that 16 is not considered full maturity in most cultures. (and i apologize if the following rambles).

    A 16 year old may be considered old enough to marry in some cultures, but women in subsistence-level cultures are not considered fully adult until they bear their first child (in cultures that practice child marriage, the children even live with their parents post-marriage until the parents deem them mature and responsible enough to move out). If a female is a memmber of a culture that is truly subsistence-level, tshe will likely not give birth to a healthy, live infant until her EARLY 20s. Unless excessive calories are available to provide enough fat to create excess developmental estrogen, teenagers are frequently incapable of carrying a fetus more than a few weeks, let alone to full-term. Even if they *do* have enough, their bodies have troubles. Even modern western teens typically have the hardest labors, post-partum problems, and premature babies amongst new moms. In a small part of Ethiopia where the ideal bride is post-menses and 12, they have enough care and calories to become pregnant at such young ages, and typically end up with a gaping hole after the birth (frequently a stillbirth) that stretches from the urogenital opening to the anus– these women are shunned hags by the age of 18.

    Without modern western medicine, many teen moms and their babies would not survive. This is even reflected in many women’s bodies. It is very common for a female human to “finish” puberty in their late teens or early 20s, where the body will naturally carry an increased load of fat (especially around the hips, buttocks, and tummy pooch) and the pelvic girdle will widen, making room for babies to grow and to be born easier. In addition, the electrical connections in the brain (especially the ones responsible for being able to think through actions into the future and consider hard consequences) do not finish connecting until the mid-20s (this length of time for connections is also present in males, and it, combined with an excessive youth testosterone load, makes the leading cause of preventable death in 15-25 yr old males “doing something stupid”).

    Taking this into account, and adding the modern western ideas of childhood and maturation, a 16-year old is still a child; a post-pubescent child, or an adolescent, but still a child nevertheless. I know some girls that, even without decreased caloric intake, do not even *start* menses until they were 16 or older.

    I would also like to remind people that we consider 8 year olds children, but at the turn of the 19th century they were expected to go out and work in factories to make money for the family, even leaving the home to live in factory dormitories; in some so-called modern cultures, 8 year olds can even function as prostitutes. Does this make them adults, since they can go to work, have intercourse, and in some cases even bear children? I would really like to say no, or there would not be a taboo or laws against having intercourse with post-menses females under certain ages.

    basically, to quote a popular song from a couple of years ago, 16 years old is not quite a child, not yet a woman.

  7. Vanessa says:

    sass1948, i dont appreciate your implication that i am not an intelligent adult. i am, and i still consider there to be a big difference between a child and an adolescent or “teenager” as we call them here in western society.

    i’m sorry so many people need to explain that in western society 16 year olds are not considered fully adult, seeing as my point was that they are very different from what i consider an actual “child”. adolescence is a period of life i consider distinct from childhood and adulthood. and i still would say that the difference between a 6 year old and a 16 year old is larger than the difference between a 16 year old and, say, a 26 year old.

    in case anyone was wondering i myself am 29 and have always considered myself intelligent. i’ve also worked with teenagers professionally and never considered them to be children.

  8. Guest says:

    I agree with you Vanessa, you are absoluteley right, but I do agree with sass1948 too, you both are right.

  9. mamavision says:

    Hi All: I titled this post “Child Model” for impact. I sure got it!

    My point in this context is simply to say it is inappropriate to prance a 16 year old “child” on a runway or in front of the cameras made up to be an adult for the purpose of inticing women to purchase clothing.

    May be inappropriate, but it works. They buy.

  10. Sass1948 says:

    Hey Vanessa, we’re gonna have to disagree then. I totally do not agree that a 16 yr old is closer to being 26. Absolutely not. X

  11. Emily says:

    hi mama v–

    i get your point about girls moddelling adult clothes, but they not children reall they are young girls, and its really there chose if they want to model or not, i just want to say that being a model is not always about being skinny and not eating, some models at 16 are perfectly healthy and do modelling because they are interestest in fashion. Hope i dident affend you are anyone else by saying all of that, just fought i would try and put my point across a bit

    take care everyone
    Emily xXx

  12. Autumn says:

    I don’t think it is so much about whether a 16 year old is more like a child or more like a woman, but the environment that the modeling world provides.
    Professional modeling is a cut throat business that can put you on a pedistal at one moment and cut you in half the next. Models are not looked at like human beings with thoughts and emotions. Models are only worth how they look on the outside.
    While this may seem obvious to most people, it is one thing to know it and another thing to experience it (I started modeling at 16 in NYC, so i have first hand experience).
    Modeling also has more than its fare share of losers and users that will take advantage of people probally more than most other professions.
    So whether you are a model at 16 or 25, this is a rough business. I do believe that teenage girls are more susceptible to the pitfalls of modeling than adult women…but all models are at risk in this business. You also have to remember many of these girls are plucked right out of their families from small towns and placed into a fast paced crazy adult world. Most girls don’t know what hit them and by the time they do, damage has already been done.
    I am not against 16 year olds modeling but I think there should be some kind of law that they can’t do any modeling without the presence of an adult or guardian until they are 18.

  13. Serena says:

    My 15-yr-old niece is a model. She was recently photographed for a furniture ad as a “mom” with two children. This was after the original, 30-something model was fired for looking “too frumpy” or some such nonsense. As a consumer, I am not fooled by these ads one bit, nor am I inspired to buy products advertised in this way.

  14. Tina says:

    Call a 16-year-old a child, call her a “young girl.” Who cares what ya call her, either way she is NOT a woman yet, and in this industry she is made to “look” like one, under layers of unnecessary make-up, and clothing for 30- and 40- somethings. I’m glad you posted this MamaV.

  15. Jane says:

    I agree with Tina. I just turned 18 and even now I wouldn’t consider myself a mature adult. I don’t believe that there can be a set age that defines childhood and adulthood; I think that it is different for each individual, some mature (physically and mentally) much faster thn others, yet there are some women who still appear to be children even in their mid-twenties.

    About the rest of the post. It disgusts me that young girls are modelling clothes for women of a totally different era, who have different bodies and who, quite simply, are immensly different. It is so disgusting that the modelling industry have not yet been labelled as inethical. People refuse to buy products that are tested on animals yet they don’t think twice about how these girls are being exploited.

    Jane x

  16. Mary says:

    Thank you so much.

  17. James says:

    You do a lot of “critical talking” about your subject. You never really state your opinion clearly or state the “why” of anything. You do say it’s accepted or “normal” I would like to really know what your point is. I think it’s that it is wrong to parade children as adults in the fashion industry. You never made any clear argument and frankly, your commentary is really very boring.

    It was so boring, that I had to write to you to ask you never to make a video again. The world will thank you.


  18. mamavision says:

    James: You are a genius. We are really going to miss you.

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  21. Nikki says:

    I’ve been reading this over and everything that has been talked about is pretty accurate. Let me enlighten you on what I see. I’m 17, i was pregnant at 16 and i now have a beautiful 3 1/2 month ols son. I do not feel that I am a child since I have kept MY OWN roof over my head since I was about 14. I am able to provide for my son just like any 40 year old would do for their children. In our society people do see 16 year old mothers still as children, but if you think about it weren’t you that age once too and didn’t you want YOUR parents & other adults around you to view you as an adult? I find all of this rather disrespectful for those of us mothers, that are young, who have defied the odds and beat the sysy=tem at it’s own game. Oh, and by the way, I’m still with my son’s father, and we’re very happy.

    Thanks for listening,

  22. miss tango says:

    I had worked with a model, she was maybe 23 at the time, and she had gone to Asia to try and restart her career. She was considered too old, and 15 year olds were getting maternity clothing gigs.

  23. Sophia says:

    im a child? id buy that dress?

    but the thing about the 16 year old mother is rediculous!

    it just makes young girls want to feel older and women want to feel like teens again!

  24. Jen says:

    When I was sixteen, I would’ve hated being referred to as a child. I’m only eighteen now, and though I’m legally an adult, I know I won’t be completely physically and mentally developed until I’m in my twenties. I think you are still a child when you’re sixteen, although it might be better to refer to them as young adults. I think it’s sad that they use such young girls to sell clothing targeted at middle-aged people. But, you’re right mamaV, it sells.

  25. Tawny says:

    I’m eighteen years old and I would like to say that I really enjoy this site and that eating disorders should be adressed more often than they are. Most people do not realise the severity and prominence of it in our society today.

    While I agree that a 16 year old modeling a wife and mother of two children is rediculous I really see nothing wrong with the young woman in the photo. I would wear that dress and don’t frankly see many 30-50 year olds wearing the things on that page.

    Models set rediculous standards it’s true. But you don’t see 12 year olds modeling in Chadwicks catalogs or Lane Bryant, nor do we see 30-somethings in advertisments for Limited Too.

  26. Camilla says:

    fashion exists in order to sell itself, it is an incredibly powerful force that is held over almost every woman’s head as an aspiration to beauty, youth, love and acceptance; fashion does not care. It is an economical sabotage of our sanity. By using child models, or certainly the very young, it increases this idealisation of everything that is new, fresh, pure. Youth is not eternal, so the further away we are from this portrayed innocence, the more we crave it, the more we look at these pictures in awe, the stronger the image, and the more we spend on fashion, beauty and everything else in a desperate bid to hold onto this quickly fading dream.

  27. A mother and sister says:

    I don’t think it really matters if she is considered a child or an adult, the point that Mamma V was trying to make is a womans body and a teen-agers body and a childs body are not the same. We as 30ish women aren’t going to wear what they put on the models and think we are going to have them fit like it does on them. Everything is not in the same place as it was when we were younger…no matter what size we are.

  28. John says:


  29. Porter says:

    Gheez…some of you phoney females! You\’re empowered by sex….yet you pretend otherwise. You\’re empowered by sex, while pretending to be victimized by sex. The poor little mama made money from modeling, while a teen sexpot, and is now an a crusade to…what?…stop all child modeling? Stop children and families from earning money? Females have more money, freedom and power now than at any other time in recorded history thanks-in-whole to the sexual revolution of recent decades. It is the whole of your power, and the only \’playing field\’ in which you dominate males. Well…that and playing the \’victim card\’.

  30. Porter says:

    Question: Why do adult women shave their legs? Answer: To look like and mimic young girls.

    Question: Why do older women wear makeup?
    Answer: To look like and mimic young girls.

    Question: Why do adult women shave….down there? (Don\’t deny it!)
    Answer: To look like and mimic young girls.

    Question: Why do adult women have plastic surgery?
    Answer: To look like and mimic young girls.

  31. Just A Guy says:

    I must admit I have not read every comment and reply… so maybe I’m jumping to conclusions… Oh Well…
    Are there more Pedophiles today than say 10, 15 or even 20 years ago? I’m not going to keep track of whom wrote what but to those of you who think that 16 going on 20 is “OK” take a look at our society today. WOMEN ARE EXPLOITED. MEDIA PROMOTES CHILD MOLESTATION THROUGH MAKING YOUNG GIRLS SEX OBJECTS! Ok, I’m sure you’ve heard that before. Call me old fashion but it’s pretty clear. Help them. The young girls. Having sex before they’re ready hurts them. They, the victims and their children, pay for it their whole lives! I just don’t know how else to say it.

  32. Just another guy says:

    The pedophile idea is very overblown by the media and people in general. When I grew up (in the 50’s) if I saw my sister naked there was nothing sexual about it. (whether she was 4 or 14). People took pictures of their children in all stages of undress and it was simply fine. Today people want to see pedophiles everywhere they go. My brother in law who is 50, unmarried likes to go to the park and watch the kids play. However he gets ugly looks from mothers and fathers who assume he is looking to kidnap their children and heaven forbid if he brings a camera to photograph children playing. He takes his life into his hands doing that. Women are exploited because they allow it to be so. Children are exploited by media because parents allow it to be so. Quit seeing pedophiles around every corner.

  33. Palash Lhairi says:

    I am Palash Lahiri from Kolkata, 29, male, I want to do any type of fashion show , means naked also, so how much amount you can offer , pl. tell me .
    I am awaiting your reply.
    Palash Lahiri

  34. Ariana says:

    Hey, I understand what you are getting at. And I do think it’s ridiculous that at 16 you were cast as the “mom”. But the girl in the dress could easily be over 18. I am 21 and look 16, I even get 15. People will use younger models because, yes, youth sells. So they are probably using the 19 and 20 year old models to sell clothes for women in their 20’s and 30’s, but these models are not children. They are just young, and everybody wants to be young. Even the the ones in their teens are hardly children. Another thing that’s in right now in the fashion industry is the baby doll look; I think it started with Gemma Ward. It’s a trend and will pass. And again, this trend is probably a consequence to the fact that we are so youth obsessed. So basically, I think it’s not so much that they are using “child models” that is the problem, but that we are afraid of getting old.

  35. Ariana says:

    Also, I have never seen a 40 year old woman wearing a dress and outfit like that. That add is likely targeted at 20 somethings. I’d say even 16 year olds would wear something like that. So, the fact that they use a young, maybe 18 year old model is not to far from what they are targeting.

  36. Ariana says:

    50*, but hell even 40 year olds who would wear that I think are few.

  37. Grace says:

    Its fairly obvious why they do it, its so that women look at it and sunconciously think “if i buy those clothes i’ll be young, beautiful and thin like her”.
    Its just basic marketing

  38. Laura says:

    A sixteen year old, while young, is not a child. I put my foot down at young children (ages 1-12) being put into modeling by their parents. But after that, it really is the “child’s” decision as to whether they want to model or not. By then, teenage rebellion has kicked in and most kids will tell their parents if they don’t want to model. If they do, even if they have eating disorders, isn’t it better to let them express themselves rather than stifle them? My ED was caused by feelings of suffocation and a lack of control. If teens are told that they aren’t allowed to model, they will just find other outlets for their unhealthy habits. And isn’t it better anyway that it’s out in the open so people can discuss the controversy rather than hide it under a rug?

  39. Jeremy says:

    Sounds like more evidence of Ephebiphobia

  40. leah says:

    while she is very young, you can hardly call her a girl. she is 19 and went to my high school.

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