Disney princesses may have long-term effects on the children that encounter them – and a majority of children do, according to new research from BYU. The study, published in Child Development, involved 198 preschoolers and assessed how much they interacted with Disney Princess culture. The research found that 96 percent of girls and 87 percent of boys had viewed Disney Princess media. Additionally, more than 61 percent of girls played with princess toys at least once a week, but only four percent of boys did the same.
The research found that this involvement is giving little girls a crash course in harmful stereotyping, whereas it gave boys better body esteem, and they became more helpful to others.
“We know that girls who strongly adhere to female gender stereotypes feel like they can’t do some things,” BYU family life professor Sarah M. 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 beneficial effects for boys suggest that princesses provide a needed counterbalance to the hyper-masculine superhero media that’s traditionally presented to boys.
While Coyne isn’t encouraging parents to eradicate exposure to the Disney Princesses, she recommends moderation and making sure your children have a wide variety of interests. The way parents and society talk to children about media can also make a big impact. Coyne says, “When we talk to little girls, we hear less of ‘You’re so smart, you worked so hard, your body can do great things!’ but that is the more important message we should be sending.”
Do you agree with Coyne? Let us know in the comments below!