Sexualized images in the media are psychologically damaging young girls and corrupting childhood, according to a group of psychologists.

The report says that virtually all media forms are promoting inappropriate images of products such as toys and clothing that are harmful to girls’ self image and healthy development.

It specifically criticizes Bratz dolls, which come dressed in miniskirts and fishnet stockings and outsell Barbie dolls in Britain by two to one.

Asda (a British megastore) has been condemned for marketing black lacy underwear to nine-year-olds.

The American Psychological Association’s (APA) report says that marketing companies take advantage of youngsters’ desire for affection and the need to conform, leading to eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression.

Academics believe that the influence and attitudes of parents, siblings, and friends can also add to the pressures of sexualization.

Eileen Zurbriggen, the APA’s chairman, said: “The consequences of the sexualization of girls in media are likely to be a negative influence on girls’ healthy development. We have ample evidence to conclude that sexualization has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, and healthy sexual development.”

The report says that parents can play a role in contributing to the sexualization of their daughters or can play a protective and educative role.