A study reveals that the more interactions with Disney Princesses a child had, predicted more female gender-stereotypical behaviour a year later.

Research from Brigham Young University shows the magical Disney Princess culture isn’t so harmless after all.

Professor Sarah Coyne found it can influence pre-schoolers to be more susceptible to potentially damaging stereotypes, reports The Daily Mail.

‘I think parents think that the Disney Princess culture is safe. That’s the word I hear time and time again–it’s ‘safe,” Coyne said.

‘But if we’re fully jumping in here and really embracing it, parents should really consider the long-term impact of the princess culture.’

The Impact Of The Princess Culture

During the study, Coyne assessed how much 198 pre-schoolers interacted with Disney Princess media.

The team used an interactive task where the children would sort and rank their favourite toys from a varied collection of ‘girl’ toys (dolls, tea sets), ‘boy’ toys (action figures, tool sets) and gender-neutral options (puzzles, paint).

Researchers found that 96 percent of the girls and 87 percent of boys have engaged with the media brand at some point in their lives.

And 61 percent of girls were reported to play with the toys at least once a week, while only four percent of boys did the same.

However, in both girls and boys, the team found that the more interactions with the brand predicted more female gender-stereotypical behavior a year later.

Gendered behaviour can become problematic if girls avoid important learning experiences that aren’t perceived as feminine or believe their opportunities in life are different as women.

Not As Confident

‘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.’

Greater female stereotypical behaviour isn’t worrisome for boys, because the boys in the study who engaged with Disney Princess media had better body esteem and were more helpful to others.

These beneficial effects suggest that princesses provide a needed counterbalance to the hyper-masculine superhero media that’s traditionally presented to boys.

Bad Body Esteem

It isn’t just damaging stereotypical behaviour that will negatively affect girls, researchers also found that those with worse body esteem will increase their engagement with the brand as a way to find role models of what they consider to be beautiful.

‘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.’

However, the researchers say parents do not have to completely remove the princess culture from their children’s lives, as it is absurd to believe avoiding one of the largest brands in the US is possible.

But they do say it is important to help your children find other interests and talk to them about media influences.

The same can be said for the superhero status, “Men – please do not worry about trying to conform to the muscular ideal we see in the superhero culture,” Coyne said. “Please do not view your body as merely an object meant to be honed to ultimate perfection. When I picture Christ, I picture the ultimate superhero – but I do not picture him as particularly muscular as [superheroes are] portrayed in media today..

Share your comments below.

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  • Girls tend to love their dolls. A lot of boys tend to love their cars etc. A minority of girls do too.
    Why so much criticism of choice?


  • My daughter was never got into princesses. She’s more of a Shrek or Balto kind of girl. Not sure I agree with the massive impact of girls playing with or pretending to be a princess.


  • I’m not entirely convinced an obsession with Disney princesses converts to all those problems later on. Most girls grow out of it


  • The range of Disney princesses and movies has changed over time and there are some independent and strong female Disney characters. Dolls are only one component of the overall makeup and building of self esteem in children.


  • Yes, I agree it’s hard to avoid altogether, but you can balance it.


  • I think it takes a bit more than what dolls they play with.

    • It does for sure – there are so many factors and again the most modern princesses are a whole lot stronger and not in need of saving!


  • Phineas and Ferb funny free games online for kids


  • There is a bit of a change happening in Disney movies with strong female leads that save the day with movies such as Frozen. It will be a slow change but hopefully our girls will believe, rightly so, that they can do anything their male counterparts can.


  • Think you can’t put this down on the toys, it takes a bit more and has probably a lot to do with the personality of the child.
    When I grew up there were no Disney Princess dolls/movies and books around. Yet I was very sensitive for female gender-stereotypical toys and fantasized about being a princess, becoming more pretty then I was and doing miraculous things. However my sister who was 1 year older played football and wild games and didn’t want anything to do with princesses, fairy’s and dolls or fantasy. While I was sensitive and tended to have a negative self image, she was secure and blasting of a positive self esteem. While we were exposed to the same toys and the same parents and upbringing.


  • In my idea it can be detrimental if a girl just plays with the Disney princesses. But if she’s regularly exposed to different sort of games, the risk is very low.


  • My daughter isn’t in to Disney. She likes. The wiggles. Thomas the tank and Shaun the sheep


  • I honestly don’t think these studies mean much. I think there are lots of factors that determine how a child will see themselves – the most important factor being how they are parented.


  • I didnt realise it was a “culture” we watch every disney movie that comes out but our little one isnt particularly obsessed with the princesses although she does like them.


  • I have bought Barbie which would be similar to Disney for my nieces.They love them and it’s what they want and they are so happy!


  • My daughter has the Fisher Price Disney princesses – ie chubby and short!


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