A show that takes viewers behind the scenes of child beauty competitions may hurt one of the participating pageant moms in court. TLC’s “Toddlers & Tiaras,” available to New York and other viewers around the country, features young girls who dress up, sometimes in controversial costumes, to win titles and crowns.

A child custody war between the parents of a 6-year-old pageant competitor has already caused a judge to issue a gag order. The child and her mother are also forbidden to take part in beauty competitions. Pageant moms whose children’s activities have been televised are worried the custody case will endanger their “hobbies.” The child’s mother currently has custody, which she might lose if a judge decides the woman is harming her daughter.

The little girl participated in a beauty program dressed as Dolly Parton, complete with fake breasts and rear padding. Pageant moms dismiss criticism of the beauty events by saying the children’s outfits are just stage costumes. Mental health experts contend the girls could be psychologically damaged through “sexualization” — making them look and act like women.

Some psychologists say the girls are trained to take on adult roles that have nothing to do with “pretending.” The child at the center of the custody fight and many other young contestants prepare for pageants by getting spray tans and wearing makeup, including lipstick and false eyelashes, to win prizes.

A court-appointed mental health professional noted the 6-year-old in the custody battle once wore a “sexy police officer” outfit, which caused greater concern than the Dolly Parton costume. The clothing reflected adult sexual behavior and possible “deviance,” according to New York psychoanalyst not involved in the court action.

An American Psychological Association report, part of the family court’s analysis of the case, reported “sexualized” girls often exhibited physical, mental and emotional developmental difficulties.

Pageant moms who have been on “Toddlers & Tiaras” say their girls live normal lives, take part in everyday child activities and only “pretend” when they’re on stage.

Source: foxnews.com, “‘Toddlers & Tiaras’ moms worried beauty pageants can be used against them in custody cases,” Meaghan Murphy, Aug. 24, 2012