"They're All Sort of Fake, Not Real": An Exploratory Study of Who Young Girls Look Up To
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Education
The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the phenomenon of role models for younger girls. Girls aged 5 to 12 years were asked who they chose to look up to, how significant their role models were to them, why they had chosen them and if they thought they thought that they could achieve their chosen model‟s achievements. Socio-cultural framework provides a useful perspective for understanding the significance of role models as they act as powerful transmitters and reinforcers of the tenets of socialization. In Social Cognitive Theory, it is claimed that children largely learn through modelling, observing and imitating significant others. Interview and task sessions including a field-mapping activity and the sorting of peer-generated photographs were conducted with 12 girls aged from 5 to 12 years from one urban school. In analysis of the interview data, it was found that family members or family substitutes were the most significant people that these girls chose and, despite the alleged pressure from popular culture, young girls in this study were able to make discerning judgements about the „hollowness‟ of characters of popular culture. They identified skills or attributes that their role models demonstrated rather than physical attractiveness, their popularity or the amount of money their fame had brought them. This study is a valid representation of what mattered to a group of young girls at one specific point in time and could indicate the value of further investigation of how to maximize the benefits of role models for young girls.