Paul Peterson, a former child actor, is the president and founder of A Minor Consideration, an organization working to change the child entertainment industry. He believes the pageants not only put demands on children's time and energies, but also sexualize young girls.
"This is feeding the sex industry," Peterson said. "There is a tremendous trade within juvenile modeling."
But simply dressing for the pageant doesn't necessarily mean looking older, Tevan said. In fact, young competitors who try to look too old could receive points off, she said.
"If the child would have a dress on that we feel is too low cut for a child that age or if the child uses movements that aren't age-appropriate, then we would probably take off points," Tevan said.
The ‘Pageant Mom’ Phenomenon
Critics have also raised concerns about "pageant moms," women who aggressively market their children in beauty contests.
Lisa J. Rapport, a psychology professor at Wayne State University in Detroit studied 74 former young performers in television and film. She found that mothers who served as managers were likely to have a far less stable and positive relationship with their children than were mothers who kept business separate.
"When parents become overly invested in the child's success, it may be more difficult to pull back and listen," said Rapport, who also discovered that the incidence of substance and alcohol abuse was higher among former kid performers.
But pageant advocates say that such stories are few and far between.
"Sometimes the parents are living through the child," Brilliant said. "But, I'd say that 95 percent of the time, parents really are doing it because the children want to do it."