PRESCHOOLERS turning themselves into sexualised "mini-adults" by wearing bras, nail polish and lipstick are requiring psychological help in increasing numbers.
Child development experts said young girls were now entering their "tween" years between being a child and a teenager at the tender age of six - five years earlier than previously.
Experts said that by age six, girls needed branded clothes, at seven they wanted styled hair, by eight they were beginning diets, at nine they were styling their hair and by early teens were engaging in sex or sending sexually explicit text messages.
The Daily Telegraph yesterday found crop-top style bras for toddlers aged two to three on sale at a major department store, sparking outrage from parents.
The alarming trend is taking a heavy psychological toll, Professor of Developmental Psychiatry at Monash University Louise Newman said.
"I've seen children suffering from clinical depression in primary school because they don't feel they are pretty enough or thin enough or able to be popular," Dr Newman said.
"The girls are worried they won't get boyfriends, girls have started defining their self worth in terms of themselves as a sex object."
Dr Newman said young girls had always played dress ups in their mothers' clothes but that this trend was different.
Dr Joe Tucci, the CEO of the Australian Childhood Foundation, said unprecedented numbers of young children needed psychological help.
"In an unprecedented way this generation of children are being exposed to adult concepts far earlier than they are ready to understand," he said. "Kids as young as seven are worried about the way they look, whether they're attractive to boys.
"They lack self esteem and confidence. If they don't feel like they fit into those messages, they feel like they are not as good as other kids.
"An impact is depression and anxiety which we are seeing an increase of in unprecedented levels."
Child advocate Julie Gale was outraged to find bras for toddlers on sale at stores including Target.
Target defended the sale yesterday, arguing it was up to parents to choose whether they buy the baby bras. "It is totally unnecessary. A two-year-old doesn't need that," Ms Gale said. "They are tactically marketing eye shadows, make-up, nail polish and little bras. It is mini me."
Parents yesterday were horrified by a display of the crop-top style bras clearly marked for toddlers.
Mother of three young girls Luisa Franco said it was "shocking" how children were being targeted as sex objects from such a tender age.
Ms Franco's six-year-old Sienna showed the tiny bras to her mother and asked to have a "kids bra".
"There is no way I would let one of my little girls wear a bra," Ms Franco said. Her husband John Valastro said he was incensed by children being homed in on as the "newest consumers".
He believed it was robbing them of their innocence.
He said children were growing up before their time because there was so much available to them to turn them into "mini-adults".
"It horrifies us what is available to kids these days, bras, makeup," Mr Valastro said. "They hear about things at school and come home and tell 'such and such wears this or has that' . . . they are only kids."