Study Finds that Disney Princesses Increase Negative Gender Stereotypes

Who didn’t absolutely love watching Disney princess movies growing up? They were everything you wanted to be. But a new study released by Brigham Young University reveals that they actually poison your mind. Researchers found that preschoolers who watch Disney princess movies and play with princess toys are more susceptible to gender stereotypical behavior than those who don’t. While these stereotypes aren’t entirely harmful on their own, they could create gender stigma in the long run.

Professor Sarah M. Coyne conducted the study by analyzing 198 children at two points over a year apart. The study, which was published in Child Develpoment, stated that 61% of girls played with princess toys once a week while only 4% of boys engaged in princess play, says BYU news.

Coyne comments, “Parents should really consider the long-term impact of princess culture.”

While this is not entirely problematic on its own, this divided behavior led to the girls believing that toys such as cookware, dolls, and tea sets were for girls and girls alone. According to Coyne, this gendered behavior can become a major issue “if girls avoid important learning experiences that aren’t perceived as feminine or believe their opportunities in life are different as women.”

These stereotypes are subtly enforced by princess culture and could lead to many detrimental self-esteem issues. “We know that girls who strongly adhere to female gender stereotypes feel like they can’t do some things,” Coyne said. “They’re not as confident that they can do well in math and science. They don’t like getting dirty, so they’re less likely to try and experiment with things.”

The study also revealed princess culture to have a negative effect on the self-esteem of young girls, as they are exposed to the “thin ideal” at such an early age. “Disney Princesses represent some of the first examples of exposure to the thin ideal,” Coyne said. “As women, we get it our whole lives, and it really does start at the Disney Princess level, at age three and four.”

In contrast, the study revealed positive effects for males; Boys who engaged with Disney princess media had better body esteem and were more helpful to others.

So what do we do about this issue? “I’d say, have moderation in all things,” Coyne suggests. “Have your kids involved in all sorts of activities, and just have princesses be one of many, many things that they like to do and engage with.”

[H/T: Elle]

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