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LifestyleColumnistsBeth Whitehouse

'Push-up' bikini for kids is just wrong

Q. Abercrombie Kids offered an "Ashley" bikini this spring in sizes for girls ages 7 to 14. Originally, it billed the bikini as having a "push-up triangle" top. This week, the company first changed the marketing to ages 12 and older; as of Tuesday, the product was no longer on the company's website. But what's so bad about offering girls a product women often choose for themselves?

A. "In a time when children and adolescents are developing body image, what it's emphasizing is one's sexuality and the importance of breasts as well," says Fugen Neziroglu, clinical director of the Bio-Behavioral Institute in Great Neck. "It leads to eating disorders, it leads to body image disturbance in general, and from that perspective it's damaging."

The product imposes the idea on girls that they need help to look better, says Laurie Zelinger, a psychologist in the Oceanside School District. And it may draw unwanted observation of the child. "You're making a 7-year-old vulnerable to attention in sexual ways . . . from older individuals," she says. "That's scary."

Neziroglu echoes others who have said they suspect the people at Abercrombie purposely introduced the controversial garment to generate publicity. "I think it was a marketing strategy to get people talking about it," Neziroglu says. The company has refused to comment, except to post the decision to revise the target age on its Abercrombie Kids Facebook page. Neziroglu, for one, isn't appeased by the target market changing to 12 or older -- that's still too young for a padded bikini, she says.

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