Disney princesses could be harming your little girl, magnifying stereotypes

Disney princesses could be harming your little girl, magnifying stereotypes

(KFVS) - Parents you might want to think twice about what toys you let your daughter play with or what movies you let her watch.

A new study from BYU found the Disney Princess culture can harm girls and magnify stereotypes.

Specifically, research by professor Sara M. Coyne showed girls who interacted with Disney-princess-related media like movies, books and dolls were more likely to have more stereotypical attitudes about gender.

The study assessed 198 preschools and how much they interacted with Disney Princess culture. Researchers also consulted with parents and educators about the children's behaviors.

Data showed 96 percent of girls and 87 percent of boys had viewed some sort of Disney Princess media. On a weekly basis, 61 percent of girls played with princess toys at least once. However, only 4 percent of boys did the same.

A year later, researchers did another assessment of the same children and found more interactions with princesses led to more female gender-stereotypical behavior.

Coyne said that can become problematic over time because girls might avoid learning experiences that are not considered feminine or believe that only certain opportunities are afforded for women.

"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."

On the flip-side, Disney-princess media might have a positive effect on boys.

Research showed boys who engaged with Disney Princess media had better body esteem and were more helpful to others.

According to the researchers, princess provide "a needed counterbalance to the hyper-masculine superhero media that's traditionally presented to boys."

This princess culture also impacts girls with worse body esteem. Researchers say these girls engage more with Disney princesses over time.

"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."

Coyne doesn't recommend getting rid of all your princess Halloween costumes or movies. However, she does say parents should encourage their kids to be interested in a wide range of topics.

"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," Coyne said.

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