Beware, Barbie: Skinny dolls may worsen girls' body image

Barbie doll has become one of the best-selling toys all over the world and the standard of beauty for millions of girls. A very deceptive standard, since a human body with such proportions would simply be unviable. Scientists believe that Barbie and her “relatives” give little girls distorted ideas about what their body should be like.

Caution, Barbie: skinny dolls can worsen girls' body image 12137

This is not the first study to examine the impact of Barbie and other skinny dolls on girls' self-esteem. Thus, American scientists have found that these toys can create a false illusion of what a beautiful female figure should look like. What's more, they can have a significant impact on their self-esteem: in one study, girls who played with Barbie reported that they were unlikely to ever be successful in their careers. Scientists from the University of Durham decided to test whether these ideas can be corrected using dolls with normal proportions.

The researchers conducted an experiment that consisted of two parts. In the first, 31 girls from 5 to 9 years old took part. One group of girls was asked to play with a skinny doll, the other – with dolls with more realistic figures. Before and after the experiment, the young participants were asked to show in pictures what their real body looks like, what it could ideally look like, and what they should look like when they grow up. It turned out that girls who played with Barbie-style dolls changed their ideas about what they should become in the future towards a thinner body in just five minutes. At the same time, girls from the control group did not have such significant changes.

The scientists conducted the second part of the experiment to find out whether this negative effect could be somehow corrected with the help of dolls with normal physiques and other toys. Scientists asked 46 girls aged 5-10 years to play with Barbie dolls for a few minutes. After this, half of the participants were given dolls with realistic proportions or toy cars. The results repeated the findings from the first part of the experiment: dolls with ultra-thin bodies changed girls’ ideas about the ideal figure. But more importantly, normal-proportioned dolls and other toys did little to change their belief that they should look like a Barbie doll in the future.

“This suggests that after the event A shift in preference toward a thinner body or playing with life-like dolls or other toys will not correct it in the short term,” the study authors wrote, noting that such dolls may pose a serious threat to young girls’ body image.

< p>Scientists recalled that dolls are far from the only source of ideas about what a female figure can be. Therefore, it is very important that adults help girls love and accept their bodies and be very careful when choosing toys for them.