Two British universities claim Barbie could promote girls’ insecurity about their image. Barbie dolls, an icon for many young girls, may contribute to eating disorders in adolescence, according to a new research. These dolls, thinner than traditional shapes, make girls want to be unrealistically slim when they grow up.
This study is the first to identify body worries in such young children. It analyses the effects of images of several dolls on almost 200 primary school girls aged five to eight. The girls saw different images of dolls, including Barbie and Emme, a new doll whose body proportions represent a larger body shape; afterwards, the girls were asked to choose figures that represented: a) their real body shape, b) the body shape they ideally desired and c) their ideal body shape as an adult.
The study analysed the difference between the shape girls thought they had and the shape they wanted. The results showed that girls aged five to six were more dissatisfied with their shape and wanted more extreme thinness after seeing Barbie doll images than after seeing other pictures. For those aged six to seven, the negative effects were stronger.
These results are very important and show that children can be influenced at a very early age. The researchers say their findings suggest schools should educate their youngest children about the risks of being too worried about having an “ideally” thin body shape. “Such programmes need to make girls aware that the thin beauty ideal is unachievable and unhealthy”. In fact, less than one in 100,000 women has the body of the Barbie doll.